An Interview With Bullets And Octane

Music Intern Amanda Goes Head To Head With The Roughest Boys In The Rock Biz

Amanda J. Duran
12 min read
The rockstar treatment
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Bullets and Octane … the name says it all. Their sound is aggressive and their energy is explosive. Each song hits you like a bullet fueled by unforgiving lyrics that make you stop and think twice. Hailing from Southern California, this unrelenting group of boys can bring out just about anyone’s animalistic nature by being in-your-face and full of testosterone. They’ve been called “the spawn of Social Distortion and Guns N’ Roses,” which by some people’s musical standards isn’t a band combination. Bullets and Octane deal out a raunchy show full of sleazy, punk-influenced metal. This is the kind of band that says what they want, whether you want to hear it or not.

So this was is my first interview and I have to admit I was more than just a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, sure, I knew the band a little, but they still have an intimidating demeanor about them.

I went into the Launchpad and sat at a table. I waited patiently as Lou, the band’s tour manager, gathered the band together. Well, two of them. Brent Clawsone, the bassist, was the first to arrive and made himself comfortable. About five minutes later, the lead singer, Gene Louis, waltzed in and the show begins. Now at this point, I have to admit that I thought Ty Smith, the drummer, and James Daniel, the guitarist, would be joining in, but James was a bit too preoccupied with the video game that was two feet away from where I was interviewing them, and Ty … who knows where he was?

Either way, the interview got started and I began to see that there was more to the band that was called “the spawn of Social Distortion and Guns N’ Roses.” And all the while, I had the competing noises of sound-check, skateboarding and a video game to add to the chaos that is Bullets and Octane.

Tell me, how did Bullets and Octane get started?

Brent: Gene and myself, we played together since we were young kids. I think we played in bands in St. Louis and then in ’98 we moved out to California. We just started writing songs on a home track in a little rehearsal space at Storage USA and tried to hook up with some people and that’s how the band started.

How did you guys come up with the name Bullets and Octane?

Gene: When we got started we were trying this guitar player and he seemed to fit the bill, the right look and everything. We were just kind of doing it for fun at the time, nothing too serious. He was like “What do you think about calling it Bullets and Octane?,” and we were like “Yeah, sure, great, whatever.” He was a drug dealer, so he went to Vegas to do a drug deal. He, uh, was never heard from again. We don’t know if he was killed or if he fled the country … his parents, his friends, no one knows where he went; but the name stuck and he didn’t, obviously, so there it is.”

At this point I wasn’t sure if I was intrigued or just shocked. I mean what do you expect from a rock n’ roll band with a name that started with a drug dealer, right? But still, I wanted to know more.

So, why be rock stars, why play music?

Brent: Well it beats the day job.

Gene: We’ve just been doing this for so long, it’s all we really know. It’s all we’ve done forever.

The music industry can be such a gamble, you guys willing to risk it all?

Gene: Yeah, might as well … you only live once.

All right, so they were willing to gamble and play the music industry game, but what made the record executives at RCA take a look at Bullets?

You guys are a blend of punk and metal and your lyrics are catchy … how did your sound and style develop?

Gene: On it’s own. We’ve always just played the songs just the way we wanted them. We never really tried to focus on putting ourselves in a category. We just kind of played what we played. And obviously, it’s gonna have some rock elements with James because his influences are like all the rock guitar players … Joe Perry, Slash [for example]. And of course, with Ty in the band, with the Guttermouth and The Vandels background he played with, we’re obviously always going to have punk edge to it. We just do what we do.”

So, they just are who they are and they aren’t about to apologize for it now. Not bad.

This is your first headlining tour–how does it feel?

Brent: It’s cool. We’re not used to playing an hour every night. We’re used to what we’ve been doing it…but I think we’re getting used it. It’s been great.

There was a really loud clatter coming from Jason, who was trying to pull off a trick with his skateboard but apparently had failed.

Gene: Jason … Jason! We’re doing an interview right now. Sorry. (Gene looks at me with an amused look.) Anyway, no, it’s good. It’s different than playing in front of crowds that aren’t yours. The whole thing of going out on other people’s tours is winning over their crowd, but headlining, it’s your crowd, so now you just gotta keep up the expectations of playing as good as you can. That means drinking a lot. (Gene chuckles).

For the readers here, what’s your impression of Albuquerque?

Brent: We’ve played in Albuquerque like four times. …

Gene: Four times.”

Brent: So it’s tough to get a solid impression. The last time we played here it was a good show, so let’s just stick with that. Let’s just say uh we were left with a good impression.”

Gene: “There’s a lot of drunk people and I like that … especially here.”

What’s more fun for you guys–the touring or the recording?

Gene: Recording. That’s the creative side of it and being creative is always fun. But that’s like saying, “what’s the funniest part–having your baby or raising it as a child?” Touring has its good moments and it’s bad moments and so does recording. I mean they go hand in hand.

Any particular moment on the tour that stands out the most?

Gene: Ty, our drummer, barely drinks and I realize why–he’s got two DUI’s, and when he drinks he loses all like idea of what’s wrong and what’s right or anything. I think it was two weeks ago, or a month ago, I don’t know, we decided to get him drunk. [Afterwards,] in the dressing room, he broke all the bottles and broke the mirrors, and then decided, when we went to a bar that we played at 11 years ago, to just pull “it” out and start pissing on the bar and everything. And he’s a small guy, so it was just really funny to watch a big security guy try to man-handle this kid who looks like he’s 12 years old, basically.”

Brent: Actually, the club that he did that at was one of the clubs we
were gonna play on this tour, but because of that … well, yeah, we’re not allowed there.”

OK. This was a side of Bullets and Octane that was typical “rock star,” but I still wanted to get into the heart of Bullets and Octane. I wanted to see what made these guys tick.

On a more serious note, what’s changed since the release of The Revelry in comparison to In The Mouth of the Young ?

Gene: Well I mean, obviously things are gonna change cuz that was an independent release, this is a major label release. It’s very nice. Once again, using the example of raising a child and watching it grow and become something more and bigger. Something with a lot more responsibility comes stress, but you know it’s great to be.

Brent: It’s a lot more pressure.

Gene: Yeah, it’s a lot more pressure but trying to put that aside, to just have a good time playing and performing the way we do, just watching it take off and watching the band we started almost close to a decade [ago]–you know, all of our dreams and expectations and our hard work [is] kinda paying off.

So what was the inspiration for the new album?

Brent: The album … you mean as far as like the title of it goes, or the whole thing?

The whole thing–what was your drive behind it?

Gene: Definitely anguish and let down and empty promises … a lot of doubt. A lot of people doubtin’ and stessin’ on us and freakin’ out. Everyone goes through their personal issues and their personal problems, but our type of music wasn’t something that was very big at all, so watching it kind of being put up against a wall and being kind of … I don’t know … it’s a very frustrated record.

But you’re having fun right?

Brent: Yeah!

Gene: Oh, of course!

Brent: We’ll always have a reason to stay inspired. I think all the people that doubted us fueled us to wanna prove them wrong. There are still people that write about us like we’re some major label “rockers” and so many people that just don’t want to believe there can still be rock bands, so I think maybe that’ll fuel us for the next one.”

So, from what I’ve gathered listening to In The Mouth of the Young over and over, there’s kind of a religious underline to it. Is there like a specific reason for that? Is there a certain reaction you guys were trying to get?

Well, it wasn’t that we were looking for a reaction, but [we were] definitely tying [something] into the album with all the artwork, and the titles and the songs. I just want people to think about where they’re at. I know a lot of people that like to surround themselves with things that make them feel comfortable in their beliefs and that’s not really the real world to live in. Go out and travel, go out to see things and live in the real world and get outta that sheltered life of your parents and things that have been created for you, and see how things really run in this world. And it’s kind of a scary reality. That’s kind of what I wanted to get out.

So you’re trying to get people to think for themselves?

Gene: Yeah, just kind of question things.

A lot of bands, these days, say that the reason they get into music is because they want people to think for themselves, but usually it’s a cliché for them to say ‘think like us.’

Gene: Right.

So, where do you guys see yourselves in 10 years?

Gene: Man I couldn’t tell you where we saw ourselves a year ago. It’s hard enough just to see three months down the road. You can make so many plans, you can think about where things are gonna go, but the best bet is to never to have too high or too low of expectations, and take it honestly–day by day, song by song, month by month, tour by tour and record by record.

Brent: We tried to make a record that we could grow off of, not one that was over-produced or too polished, so I see a lot of different ways we could go. We could put out another record like the last one, we could go in that direction; we could go with something that’s more pop. Who knows? We could go anywhere with it. We tried to set this record up to have something to build off of.

You guys got a pretty big following so far.

Brent: Thank you.

Gene: Going steady seems to be the safest route, you know?

So where would you guys like to be in 10 years?

Gene: Either way. as long as we’re making records and following something we’re proud of, no matter the rate of success of failure, as long as we’re looking at it, being happy with the outcome of the songs, I think that’s really all it starts with and all it ends with at the end of the day. As long as we’re happy with the stuff we’re creating then, you know … life is life. Make lemons outta lemonade, take it as it comes.

Well … I guess there is something more behind these rock ‘n’ roll junkies. Behind the tough image, tattoos, cigarette-smoking and whiskey drinking bad boys from St. Louis, Mo., there are at least two guys who love what they do. They have a message and they have a reason for playing and making music. They draw from tough times and letdowns, from doubters and non-thinkers. They want to get others to see “the light.” At the heart of Bullets and Octane are just a few guys playing good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll for the sake making themselves happy. They don’t care about the fame, the money, the girls or the glamorous appeal to the music industry. Whether or not they succeed or fail they’re in it for one thing … something they can be proud to call rock.
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