Gene Louis - Bullets And Octane

August 11, 2006

Tell me a little about Bullets And Octane.

We started out in 1998. We came out from St. Louis, Missouri to southern California. Mainly our drummer moved out here a little earlier than that. He was playing with Guttermouth and The Vandals. Basically refused to become one of those big fish in small ponds in the middle of nowhere where you play for a lot of the big festivals and tours that come through. A lot of the clubs put you on the great shows but when the circus is gone, you're sitting in the middle of nowhere wondering what the hell is going on. So we all moved to the West coast here and we started building it up slowly, trying to do it the right way.

You started out as a drummer. What sparked your interest in being a drummer?

Starting out growing up my father was a big band drummer like jazz and New Orleans and all that type of style of music. I grew up playing music and drums on a riverboat going up and down the Mississippi river. I played in my dad's band since I was a kid. Obviously all different types of music that any musician can get into and all my friends listened to rock and roll and punk rock and things like that. Sure enough you could see it through time here, all the different drummers. There's always a side to them that wants to be melodic. It's great to be a drummer. It's a rhythmic, aggressive type of instrument but deep inside I think every drummer wants to be someone who creates melody and harmony and things like that. Sure enough being behind the drums all those years watching different singers and front men that I've played for never seemed to do the job the way that I wanted them to do it. I wanted to be the main part of it so when the opportunity came to start a project, I decided I wanted to sing right in this band. This was a great opportunity and we love what we do. It's how that got started.

I noticed that you were named after Gene Krupa who is one of my favorite drummers.

Yeah, Gene Krupa and Louis Belson. Gene Louis. My father pretty much wrote it in stone that I'd have to play music it looks like.

Well, he got you started off on a good career. You became the front man. Do you enjoy being a front man more so than being a drummer?

Well, when it comes to entertaining people live it's definitely my personality to always be overwhelming to people and always push it a little too far with this rock band. As far as being in the studio and creating music with the guys in the band, a lot of us are pretty much hands on with a lot of the instruments. We'll be writing and I'll be writing with the guitar and I'll play some drums on things. It's very open for interpretation for everybody on any instrument. Everyone has different ways of looking at every instrument so we keep it open.

I was reading your press reviews and my favorite one so far is "in vocalist Gene Louis they have one charismatic horn bag of a frontman."

Some of the stuff they write is just amazing. I'm wondering wow, what's that about? It's pretty funny.

Well, apparently you're a horn bag.

That's what it says.

Tell me a little bit about your release In The Mouth Of The Young.

It's our first major label CD to come out. We're very excited about it. There was a record before that called Revelry. This one has a brand new sound. It's something we're proud of and we worked really hard at trying not to be overthinking everything and in a way that could be overthinking in itself. Just keeping it a really simple stripped down record. Bass, drums, guitars, vocals. Not a lot of bells and whistles like a lot of bands that come out of the gate on a major label. They put orchestras and this and that and the horns and all this shit. Backup singers, choirs, and everything. It's a good building plateau for whatever we decide to create next. It's a good starting point hopefully for a great career. It's our time to really shine and make it happen this year so we'll see what happens.

Different things work for different folks. Some folks definitely need all that stuff for what ever project they're creating whereas other people only need that raw, stripped down, energetic sound. It depends on what you're trying to portray I guess.

I agree with you too. It's just a lot of times after a band comes out with what I would like to call their third record first, it's like where do you go from there? You've pretty much went down every avenue for the most part. The next record you want to kind of see growing and that's the cool thing. You see bands like Green Day and bands like Rancid or any of these different types of bands where you got to watch them grow as musicians and as songwriters to where "wow, they're starting to mature. Wow, they went to the next level." More important, the songs are just as good or better on this album.

I saw Billie Joe from Green Day on VH1 last night on some show he did with Elvis Costello. That was pretty cool to watch. To basically see this guy with one of his idols doing his songs and doing his own songs. That was pretty cool.

Yeah, I bet that must have been a great feeling. Everybody wants to be able to play and work with the people they grew up listening to and inspired them. That would be quite an amazing thing.

What kind of bands influenced you when you were growing up? Like rock and punk wise.

You know, a lot of it really wasn't so much about the bands in themselves as it was the different styles of music. Like I said growing up with a jazz history in the house, my next door neighbors would listen to classic rock with your Aerosmith and your Boston and all those different types of bands. Then you had some friends at school or friends around you that played in local bands that would listen to a lot of punk rock and different elements like that. That was more important to me than the bands. I probably couldn't even mention the bands back then. I didn't know their names. It's just hearing these different styles getting in crammed in together. There's sort of a stage where you just appreciate all these different styles of music and find things you like in every style to bring to the table in your own music. You create it with different things. You can listen to rhythmic and drum ideas from these great jazz albums my dad would play and then hear just the attitude and vibe from some of this great punk rock. Like wow, these people are really aggressive and really feel passionate about what they have to say.

On your new CD for people who are just getting to know your band like I am, what three songs would you say really pinpoint your band's sound?

Asking me being a part of it, I'm inside of the box on everything. The main thing is for us to always try to keep our outlook completely wide. Like even on the music we're working on now for the next record. We're trying to not only think of it as a certain style of music but not think of anything like what's going on today. Like okay, last year might have been pop punk and the year before that it was emo and this year it's screamo and the year before that...you know, try to stay away from different pinpointed genres of music that can come and go. More importantly, just really focus on good melodies and good choruses and have the lyrics mean something to us regardless of if it's great for pop radio. Things like that. "She's going to love you today" or something ridiculous like that. Something that means a lot more to us and that makes us play even better when we're playing shows live. We're really into it and we really appreciate the stuff that we're coming from. Everyone else is going to see that too and be just as excited.

To me it seems really hard to get on the radio these days unless you have a shitload of money behind you. Trying to do stuff that's going to attract radio attention is something you might have been able to do in the past but I don't think it's really quite that easy anymore.

Yeah, it's definitely a strange thing. It's a lot harder for any type of rock and roll or any type of guitar driven music to be at the top anymore since the mid-90s. It kind of pushed over to the dangerousness that you would say rock and roll had has now gone to hip-hop and rap and things like that. Even just the life span of any type of rock and roll music is cut short these days. Very exposable.

I've noticed that. I interview a lot of different types of bands from rock bands to death metal bands. I've noticed with a lot of these young bands these days, my God they look like they're 12 year boys that live next door.

Right, I know. Exactly.

And the things they say. I think my favorite quote was one of the boys from Fallout Boy saying that they don't think girls should get naked. I was sitting there going "huh"?

Wow, wrong business my man. There's always a local church that might need a priest if you want to go join up but yeah, it is a whole different thing. I tell you what that scene started from. Like I said the mid-90s, the cool thing with grunge and things like that was, it seemed then that if you looked a lot like the people next door, it seemed like the people that are nerds and people like that could relate to it and "I could be just like this guy. You don't have to be a rockstar to do this." I think they could relate to that in some way. I think it seems like in the world right now and as you can see where rap took over, there's no such thing as a rockstar anymore. Something you can look at and people want to go "wow, either I want to be that guy" or else girls look at him and say "I've got to be with that guy" type of thing. It's not really there anymore. You watch the TV and these different bands and you look at them and go "that's like my friend's younger brother." Nothing really to it. If they were walking around in a crowd, would you really look at them and go "there's a band right there." For people to be able to portray what they are and what their songs are about and everything that goes along with what we do, it's obvious.

Yeah, I think the best quote that somebody said to me a long time ago was that back in the day when you saw Nikki Sixx or you saw Axl Rose, you knew who they were. These days I don't know how many shows I've covered where I passed guys in the crowd and I came to find out later on when I was photographing their bands that they were in a band.

Yeah, I know exactly what you're saying. That's how it is with a lot of these emo bands. It's almost like the more toned down you look, the more the bands have success or the more it's categorized like that. I remember playing with a band and I asked the roadie whoís setting up the gear what time the band goes on. His answer was ďwell, we go on in about an hour.Ē I was like ďwow, youíre in the band? You look like youíre someone whoís going to sell merch tonight or something.Ē

Yeah, I saw your press photo and I thought ďwell, there are some nice looking young men. They look like theyíre in a band.Ē

Yeah, itís about time huh?

Exactly. I love the tattoos. What got you interested in getting tattoos and how do you decide on what youíre going to get?

Oh, thanks. Well, back in Missouri there are a lot of bikers and biker gangs and things like that. They had tattoo shops and they didnít care how old you were. They just cared about making a little bit of money or whatever. So I donít know, just that whole dangerous life mentality type of thing and seeing all the people like you just mentioned growing up. From your Guns Ní Roses and your Motley Crue and Metallica and bands like that. This look and this image and this whole vibe that goes with it. Thatís always something thatís drawn everyone in the band to it. Weíve always been ďah, look at that. That really ties it all together.Ē

Itís funny. Where I work people are all conservative and weíve got one guy there thatís got a lot of tats and this one old lady I work with complains that he has all these tattoos and Iím sitting there. Iím almost 40 and I think thatís sexy. I grew up in a day where guys got tattoos and it was totally sexy.

It was a good part of times.

Absolutely and to this day I think tattoos look sexy on people. Is there any part of your body you donít have tattooed?

I donít know. Iím looking for a spot. I always think of these good ideas and then Iím running out of room. The key rule is leave the face alone. Thatís just about it.

Ah yeah, that might be a good idea. Youíve got a nice face. Tell me a little about the CD cover. I got a kick out of that. Itís like one of these daring things where you know someone is going to look at it and go ďoh my God.Ē

I remember we were supposed to make the record cover. We were on the road at the time and RCA was asking us if we had any ideas and whatís going on. A lot of times people would always put these different things on us. Things like ďwow, youíre rock and roll. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Dangerous.Ē In a way thatís kind of a clichť and I donít want to be pigeonholed into that type of vibe. I started thinking like you know what, thatís not really dangerous anymore. In fact that was just kind of a gimmick. Iím thinking whatís dangerous anymore is kind of the reality of whatís going on in life in the generations to come. The reality of whatís happening. I wanted to have a vision of this younger tattooed girl that looks like sheís strung out with a brand new baby and kind of that look of ďlook what Iíve done to myself and with a new lifeĒ and what kind of life is this baby going to have. Keep in mind this is a fun rock and roll band but there is a tad bit of when weíre on the road and meet people and we see these things. A lot of friends you see growing up and their lives change at such a young age where they werenít even sure what they wanted to do with themselves. A lot of that had to do with wanting people to question their surroundings and this bubble thatís been created long before they could even make a decision of okay, so if you come from a rich family youíre supposed to be a lawyer and go to college. But has that been decided for you or is that something you decided yourself? Your religion. Most likely if youíre born Jewish youíre going to be Jewish. If youíre born a Christian or a Catholic youíre going to be Christian or Catholic without really being able to explore. Thatís something the churches and everything never really do is let people think for themselves and explore the other religions. All they want to do is tear down and poke fun at all the different religions and talk about how wrong they are. When you look at all these different perspectives on religions that believe that everyone has got the right idea, itĎs just everyone doesnít know how to really focus it. Instead of being happy with everybody and have people talk about how things are going and appreciate everyone elseís beliefs, itís tear it down and thatís how a lot of wars and crazy fights and arguments start. People just canít even get along and talk to each other because of these things. Thatís not what itís about at all. I know thatís a lot of information but you get the idea.

I think itís great because the one thing that is bothering me with this generation of young people right now, when I grew up my parents always told me to question everything. Donít just accept something somebody says without any evidence or facts backing it up. Iíve always done that. Today we live in an aura where weíve got an administration running this country that tells you ďokay, we said this. This is the gospel. Donít ask any questions.Ē And people actually go along with that shit. It bothers me that people are actually afraid to question the very people that they put in office and whoís salaries they pay.

Yeah, thatís true.

I think itís great when someone points out that you need to ask questions. Itís your fucking life.

Itís true. Youíre very right. Itís very true. Itís a sad thing. Iíve had a lot of friends and co-workers with the same thing. People that now work in the music industry when they got to about the age of 27 and theyíd gone through college and they were about to get a Masters in this and that, they realized ďwell, wait a minute. So now after I graduate Iím supposed to sit in the office and do this job that I donít even really want to do. I donít even know why I did it. I went along with this because what else am I going to do? I went to high school and now I have to go to college I guess.Ē You go through college and I guess thatís what youíre going to do. You donít really have time to plan out and think about what am I about? What do I like to do? What sort of things am I going to be able to apply myself to better myself and people around me?

Exactly. When I got out of high school I went into the Air Force for four years and that was an adventure. Then I went to college and studied Medical Technology. Now Iím working in the retail industry dealing with people and at the same time running a music publication. In two years maybe I want to do something else. I have to constantly change and evolve.

Right, yeah. Itís a weird thing.

Do you guys have any touring plans?

Yes, we have about 40 more days on this Korn Family Values tour and then we go and do a headlining tour over in the U.K. Then we jump back over to the United States and we do a smaller tour with Bullets For My Valentine which should be fun and try to make plans to get back to Japan. Thatís one of our favorite places to go as well. We havenít been there in a while. Itís really been so hectic here that we barely get time to go back overseas to Japan. Weíre planning out that and from there thatís a wrap. That takes care of us until about November.

Howís the Family Values tour going so far?

Itís great. These festivals are a great way to meet a lot of people. Mainly just hang out with these different bands that youíve heard of or listened to for a long time and be able to kind of make friends and visit and appreciate each otherís work. Thatís the best thing is just being able to stand on stage and watch these different bands like Deftones or bands from other countries. Thereís a band called Dir En Grey from Japan and theyíre the nicest people. Theyíre a great live band. Itís just an open-minded experience to able to learn from bands from other genres and other times and places. A lot of these bands that are obviously Korn fans might never have gotten a chance to hear a band like Bullets And Octane so itís a great opportunity to get new people to get a chance to see us. Itís pretty cool.

Something that always tickles me is when people put out a pretty cool record and then theyíre like ďoh, weíre working on new material already.Ē What kind of stuff are you working on right now and when are we going to get a hold of that?

Oh, itís going to be a while. If you look at In The Mouth Of The Young, it has a song on there called ďSave Me SorrowĒ and that was also put on the indie release Revelry so itís been on two records. Thatís something when you look at bands like The Cure and Bad Religion, they put on different versions of the same songs on different records and thatís something that we even do today. The cool thing about starting early on making the next record is itís got to be better and itís got to be a growth for us. Starting now thereís going to be a different sound writing a song today than there will be writing a song nine months from now. Either way itís still a good song. It still holds water. It still belongs on the record. Itíll just be a different outlook and different things that youíre involved in. It may come out of a song from different times in the year so starting now, itís still going to be the same old rock and roll Bullets And Octane but some of the different twists and turns in it.

Any other thoughts or comments?

That was great.

Bullets And Octane