Last week, the most excellent of people, Rick Froberg, passed away. He was 55 years old. Rick was a frequent collaborator with John ‘Speedo’ Reis; having worked on numerous musical projects together, such as the scrappy, raucous post-hardcore of Pitchfork (1986-1990), the guitar-bending, furious noise of Drive Like Jehu (1990-1995 and then 2014-2016) and the hardcore-garage punk rock of Hot Snakes (1999-2005, 2011-2023). Rick went on to form the tight, garage-rock musings of Obits (2006-2015) without Reis, who was busy with his own project, The Night Marchers which features Gar Wood and Jason Kourkounis of Hot Snakes.
Rick was a prolific artist, having created all the artwork for all of his musical projects album art, notably all 4 Hot Snakes albums and both Drive Like Jehu records. He also provided artwork for the self-titled Rocket From The Crypt album and the singles that accompanied it. He was also so effortlessly cool looking – that guitar tone, that he had forged with his compadre, Reis, was a phenomenally recognisable sound – that tone which owed a lot to the Wipers was so recognisable, from the choppy, angular noise of Jehu’s off-kilter rhythms, to the blistering scything punk rock of Hot Snakes, all the way to the delicate, but no less hard-hitting garage drawl of Obits, his guitar lines were remarkable. Also, his vocals – at times a scything, drink-ravaged bark, to a delicate croon, always raw with emotion, as well as this slightly snarking joy. You also knew he meant every word as well, just such passionate delivery by one of the most unique, distinctive and do you know what, fuck it, best voices in punk rock.
I had the pleasure of seeing Hot Snakes 3 times in my life – once during the farewell show they did in 2005 at the Camden Underworld, Rick was very drunk, they were scrappy as fuck, but played Luau, which was epic. Saw them again at the Garage in 2011, where they thumped through an 18-song setlist of tracks from all three albums and it was magic. The final time was in 2018 (all times with Jason, I should add), playing the Dome – 22 song setlist this time, got to shake Rick’s hand at the end as well and Gar Wood’s (if I remember correctly).
Two weeks before his passing, Rick had revealed on his Instagram that a fifth Hot Snakes record was “very nearly done.” Here’s hoping that the surviving members can make sure this sees the light of day as a dedication to Rick’s memory.
Rest easy, dude. You’ll be missed.
Here’s my favourite Hot Snakes song, in case you’re wondering, I think it’s perfect.
Fellow Keep It Fast-er Jason has put together a playlist of some key Hot Snakes tracks to enjoy if you are Spotify-inclined: