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Kerby’s Interview With Bullet’s and Octane Vocalist Gene Louis

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 @ 8:29 PM

"...newer bands getting onto t

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These guys shared a stage with Social Distortion for six weeks.

Normally, I don’t put a lot of stock in who a band tours with--it doesn’t really make that much of a difference to me. There are so many factors that go into who ends up with whom on the road ranging from record label dealings to financial budgets to simple band availability that a fan never knows if a couple of groups who are touring together are doing so at least in part due to a mutual respect for the other or whether it’s strictly a business decision. That’s usually the case with me anyway….but when I found out that this band did a trek with Social Distortion lasting just over a month and a half, it did spark some interest. After all, most music fans are probably aware of Bullets and Octane through their recent tour with Avenged Sevenfold—a group generally recognized as more of a leftover nu-metal act than as a band known for throwing down the old school rock. Bullets, on the other hand, have a sound that hearkens back to metal’s heyday while still managing to sound current without all of the predictable grunting and growling generally associated with groups labeled emo-core or scream-core or busted-apple-core or whatever. Anyone who was in attendance at one of the recent shows with AX7 would have to agree that if Bullets and Octane didn’t surpass the headlining act in both musicianship and attitude, it was pretty damn close. When you think about it, it’s a simple concept--B+O is simply straight ahead metal played by guys who look like they actually want to be in a rock band rather than hanging out at Hot Topic hitting on twelve year olds.

The vocalist for Bullets and Octane, Gene Louis, was originally the band’s drummer primarily because he was sort of born into it. His father was a jazz musician, and Gene showed an affinity for percussion at a young age. Throughout his adolescence, he continued to progress and was actually the drummer of Bullets and Octane until the lead singer of the band quit some time before the release of 2004’s The Revelry. Now, with Louis serving the band as lead vocalist, Bullets and Octane have recently released In The Mouth Of The Young on RCA. The record seems to suggest a band that has settled on a unified sound that goes well beyond their past performances on disc with regard to both musicianship and the construct of songs. Part of the improvement could very well be laid at the doorstep of one Page Hamilton--of Helmet fame--whose unconventional methods of production seemed to connect with the band in just the right manner to create exactly the right type of spark needed to create interest within the listener. After being on the road with the aforementioned Social Distortion and Avenged Sevenfold, Bullets and Octane is currently headlining club shows on their own and promoting the new album as they continue their progression from new band to respected group with a proven track record and hopes of longevity.

KNAC.COM: What do you think makes for a great rock song? What do you listen for?

LOUIS: That’s a good question. I was actually just listening to Led Zepplin’s “Rock and Roll”, and it is so amazing. It just has this shoot from the hip kinda carelessness-- but done in a tasteful way. You just need to kind of go for it and do what you do.

KNAC.COM: Is there something special about the simplicity of the rock from that time period? Or is it just a case of the genre being new and being able to break new ground and do things that hadn’t been done before? Why do people keep going back to it?

LOUIS: Yeah, that’s hard to know. I mean, I wasn’t around when that was in its prime, but…I don’t know. I think it still holds water in that it isn’t supposed to be right or perfect or understood by most people. Rock from that time still has that kind of feeling that you want to get—it’s like no matter what time of day it is when you hear it, you’re ready to go. Sometimes just hearing something wrong and raw is what you need. The other day, I was listening to the horrible guitar playing by Joe Perry in “Dream On.” They said he was so messed up when he did the guitar solo for it that he was hitting the wrong notes with bad timing and all, but now, I wouldn’t want to hear it any other way. That’s just how it is.

KNAC.COM: Don’t you think that as the years have passed, the potential to allow for a certain degree of spontaneity or imperfection has dwindled?

LOUIS: Yeah. Less “one-taking” it for sure.

KNAC.COM: Is that type of strict attention to detail bound to make the recording process painful?

LOUIS: I’m like my biggest critic on a lot of things. When we did this record, luckily enough, it was awesome working with Page Hamilton of Helmet—he’s wack sometimes, but in a great way. I could be in the middle of doing a heavy rock song, and he would go, “you know I’ve got an idea.” Then he would put on like a Stevie Wonder song or something. At the time, I was having a hard time with relating to what he was trying to hear, but later on, I realized that he was just crazy. (laughs) The thing he had me do, and I like doing it anyway, was every night when I did vocals, I would put down a full bottle of Jager—a full bottle of it. At that point all of my cares would just go away, and I would do what I do as if I was onstage or had just written the song. That’s always cool too because when you just write a song, there can be this brand new sense of how great that it is the minute you write it. Over time, you play a song so much that it’s like being in a relationship with a woman for so many years where you sort of lose that first time spark of getting in bed with her or something. As far as laying down vocals though, it’s just about laying it down, having a few drinks and forgetting about it. Usually, that’s when the best stuff comes out.

KNAC.COM: Is it a lot harder to sing in the studio where you don’t have the adrenaline rush from the crowd or any other external forces to work with?

LOUIS: It can be good and bad because you get a little time to experiment. In that way, if you want to try something this way or that way, you can. It goes both ways. On one hand, you don’t want to dwell on being in the studio, but on the other, you need to utilize the tools that are given to you.

KNAC.COM: How long was the recording process for the record?

LOUIS: I think we were in and out of there in about a month or so. We did some shows and a little touring in between and worked in a couple of different studios. It was pretty laid back and pretty relaxed. It was a great time. We’re looking at being out on the road for quite awhile now though.

KNAC.COM: Was there any event that you would consider particularly memorable about the tour with Social Distortion?

LOUIS: There were a lot of fun things. I decided one night to get pretty wrecked, and I hadn’t talked to Mike in a few years, so he probably didn’t remember me too well. Well, when he comes out of his dressing room, he sort of has this mafia vibe about him, and I had told his crew that when I saw him that I “was going to tickle him or something.” They’re like, “dude, don’t do it.” Well, he starts walking out, and he’s got his leather jacket and all that stuff--you know how he is. Well, when he gets close, I reach into his jacket and tickle him and go, “who’s mommy’s little monster?” Right away, he gave me this look, and at that exact moment I sort of got this moment of clarity like I was sober like, “what the fuck am I doing?” Then, he started laughing, and after that, all we did was pretty much fuck around with each other on the tour and during sound check. One night, we ended up at Billy’s—the guitar player from Warrant (Billy Morris)—it was his bar. Somehow, all of us were drinking and it became a thing where I’m on bass, the keyboard player of Social D is singing, the drummer from Social D is playing drums, and the guitar player from Warrant is playing guitar. We were just playing cover songs in this little shithole bar. That was a fun little moment.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, Social Distortion in a bar owned by a guy from Warrant. That it is good.

LOUIS: That’s what I said. I’m like, “how does this make any sense?” I’m just thinking about the mix of Warrant—cock rock, and Social D?

KNAC.COM: Yeah, kind of the antithesis for sure. You do get courage points though for tickling Mike Ness. It seems like you’ll get a chance for more antics on this headlining tour—are you looking forward to closing a show rather than supporting?

LOUIS: It’s going to be fun. I’m more looking forward to the fact that it’s our first headlining tour and it’s in support of this record that we’re really proud of that has just been released. Brand new record, brand new tour. I think everyone is looking forward to it. Looking on the computer, I think the fans are looking forward to getting the record and we’re looking forward to playing more of the songs, so it should be an interesting situation.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever worry that if a song were to break really big, the band could be over-exposed or is there always this sense that you want a song that plays on the radio all day and all night long?

LOUIS: Sure. It is definitely there. I was listening to the Stone Temple Pilots “Plush” the other day on the radio and I told somebody, “I could probably do with never hearing that song again as much as it was played on the radio.”

KNAC.COM: That’s a fact. Is there a rock band whose music has worn in a worse way than STP? I mean, I don’t want to hear any song from Pearl Jam’s Ten either.

LOUIS: It’s the same type of thing whenever you’re riding on the tour and the band is like, “let’s get some new CD’s—let’s get the Best of Boston.” I’m like, “dude, all you need to do is go to any city and find a classic rock station.”

KNAC.COM: That is probably more true now than ever with most of the radio stations being owned by the same people. There can’t be much deviation in the set lists.

LOUIS: It’s like now you can’t go anywhere without hearing a Fall Out Boy song either.

KNAC.COM: The funny thing is that a band like that with relatively little material is out on the road playing venues that seat over ten thousand.

LOUIS: Yeah, I thought that was the weirdest thing too. Someone was mentioning that just recently as far as newer bands getting onto the radio with like one or two hits and then suddenly playing arenas like that--nothing says the burnout factor quite like that. It’s almost kind of better to go out there and play a shorter set on a smaller tour and leave people wanting more instead of playing an hour and half set with little material.

KNAC.COM: You could always play the hit song multiple times. That’s what everyone says Twisted Sister did during the Stay Hungry Tour—you know, perform “I Wanna Rock” at least two times. I have no idea if it is true though.

LOUIS: You think it is?

KNAC.COM: I would like to know it for a fact. I don’t think it would shock me given what a phenomenon that album was at the time. I do agree though that a truncated set would be the proper course when a band may only have one record out instead of filling the set with covers.

LOUIS: That’s what bands do nowadays. They throw in a good cover or two just to keep the crowd interested so they know what you’re playing.

KNAC.COM: Do you look at a band like Social Distortion who may have never played twenty thousand seat arenas or gotten monumentally huge yet who can still play whenever they want in any city they want as a type of model for your bands success?

LOUIS: That’s such a weird thing because music is so disposable nowadays. Rock and roll just is not what it used to be. Rap kind of took over where rock used to be as far as popularity goes. At this point, it would be great just to have a career at all in music as sad as it is to say. We were just talking about this with our publicist in London the other day about how Social Distortion somehow had their own type of music and vibe. It was just this stripped down rock and roll. There was just like this feeling that the music has stayed the same with this huge respect factor. They did an amazing thing. They just did what they did and haven’t had to change with the times. Great songs are great songs, and that’s what it comes down to, I think.

KNAC.COM: It’s almost like bands like that are above the trends. It’s as if they are timeless—like an AC/DC or the Ramones.

LOUIS: Yeah, well every time I’m doing an interview or something, someone always asks, “what would you tell a band that is just starting out?” The main think I want to tell them is that when you’re young and impressionable, try to find your own voice. Find things you like, but take a few select things. Like if you like the rhythm section from one band or the meaning of lyrics from someone else. My bass player recorded bands for years, and I’d be there thinking, “how many bands are there out there that sound like Blink 182?” Then, the emo thing came out, and the kids are screaming. You know, it’s great that you’re into it and all, but try to come up with something on your own for a second. As far as bands changing with styles, the one thing that’s the worst is when bands get successful whether it is in the 70’s, the 80’s or the 90’s, and they try to change into something new. I mean, Bryan Adams tried to go grunge. Whether you’re Bryan Adams or Def Leppard, you’re gonna have hundreds of thousands of bands who are still going to want to hear “Photograph” or whatever. If the fans want to hear Nirvana, they are going to buy a Nirvana record.

KNAC.COM: The most irritating part of Def Leppard’s descent to me was that they always claimed that they could just pop back into the studio whenever they wanted and record another Pyromania….I was always just like, “then why don’t you? Please.” It would be a helluva lot better than writing dance-pop anthems for soccermoms.

LOUIS: Yeah, that’s the thing. If you want to hear a Motorhead song, you know what you’re going to get. That’s what makes it so rad. It might not be changing the world or all over KROQ, but you know you’re going to get with Motorhead. We’d like to be that type of band that people can count on in that way.

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