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BULLETS & OCTANE: The Ultimate Punk Rock gig

Previously published in TOTAL GUITAR magazine in 2008:

Top notch design: John Blackshaw



TG ploughs head first into the mosh pit to get the inside scoop from the Missouri punk rock rioters on everything from onstage boozin’ and audience participation to what really goes on backstage…

Late nights, alcohol and punk rock go hand in hand like a cup of tea and a biscuit, and when it comes to getting involved with the entire motley troop of Bullets And Octane, it’s best you go with the former. TG’s mission is to get the full low-down on putting on an amazing show, and where better than London’s legendary venue the 100 Club. Something tells us we’re in for an interesting night when on meeting front man Gene TG is immediately plied with bottles of beer and tequila. The band descend on us like a biker gang from Mad Max and it appears everyone has something to say:

‘Killer setlists’
According to Bullets front man Gene “It’s good to start with the more familiar songs, a couple oldies maybe, but you know don’t blow out all the favourites too early in the set. Once in a while we like to throw in a weird song we haven’t played in a while, because the crowd can usually tell if you’re getting bored of doing the same set and going through the motions for 6 months! We throw in a cover once in a while. Usually ‘Rebel Yell’ by Billy Idol or maybe the intro to Baywatch, that’s always good!”

‘Minimal gear’
When it comes to gear, Bullets keep things easy. As guitarist Kev tells us “I play out of a JCM900 head, and a ’59 re-issue Les Paul guitar. That’s pretty much it right there! I use a just a few little pedals – the Holy Grail reverb and an Ibanez Tube Screamer.”
Brent: “I play Fender P-Bass and a Jazz Bass, Ampeg SVT classic head with 8×10 cab. If I could have more I would, but it’s enough lugging around the 8×10. I have a Boss Overdrive which I use to add a little grit while Kev does the solos.”
Gene: “We just have a simple amount of stuff. It would be nice of course to have a wall full of cabinets and tons of guitars! But we’re loud enough as it is.”

‘Intimate Venues’
Gene: “With small clubs I love the intimate vibe, everyone’s singing along and you get eye contact. You can pretty much get into everyone’s head and make sure they’re enjoying themselves if they’re feeling uncomfortable, and after a couple of songs everyone is jumping around. People decide all the time to just walk up on stage wanting to sing along too, I’ll turn around and there’ll be someone standing there, so I’m like you know ‘Sing. Now move along!’ So yeah I definitely prefer the smaller ones to arena’s. You can fuck with people and grab noses. Anything goes.”

‘Pre-gig boozing’
Ty: “Warm up with a couple of drinks!”
Gene: “Definitely. Jack Daniels. Nothing too crazy, just maybe 19 shots or whatever. As long as you’re good to go! I’m not about to go out there sober and ask if everyone’s having a good time. It’s all about passing drink around and giving the crowd some shots. I love it that everyone drinks their asses off over here! Usually we get offered all these fucked up shots too, so by the time we go onstage we’re like ‘Goddamn we’re gonna sound terrible!’ But it can make the show, and people see past the stumbling around.”
Brent: “Yeah because Gene usually gets people to bring shots up onstage, we have to take that into account. So don’t overdo it beforehand!”
Kev: “And however many shots come out, I’m down to do them.”

‘Gimmick-free gigs’
When it comes to putting on a great show, Bullets don’t like to mess with gimmicks or intro music, as Gene testifies “I think back in the day we tried loads of stupid stuff, but silly as it sounds I think you should just really get into the music you created and get into the energy of the crowd and that’s all it really is. Less is more, and the songs speak for themselves.”
Brent: “I think for putting on a show, bottle rockets are all we can afford! Never try to outdo the headline act.”
Gene: “Yeah with some bands it looks like you’re trying to put on something more than you really are.”
Brent: “If we get to headline an arena tour then we’ll definitely bring out the bottle rockets!”

‘Audience participation’
Gene: “At least once every tour we end up having some sort of wet t-shirt contest. It’s kinda cheesy and stuff, but it isn’t really our fault! Somehow girls end up onstage, and if people ask for it, you’ve got to deliver. I did recently decide to take a ladies purse from out of the crowd, and then wear it for a whole song. Maybe I’ll take someone’s glasses off their face and put them on too. It just makes the show a little different.”
Kev: “I usually try to find an obstacle like a PA speaker, and just jump up on that and do some kicks out to the crowd or just slap some hands while I hold a note. I haven’t fallen yet which is pretty good.”

‘Aftershow parties’
Gene: “It’s always more fun to just get in a cab, and head out to see some weird shit or get drunk outside a church or something. There was one time on the Social D tour and we went to the dude from Warrant’s bar and there was a live band that you could just go up and do karaoke with. Next thing I know is somehow Charlie [Quintana, Social Distortion]is on drums, the guy from Warrant is on guitar, I’m playing Bass for some unknown reason, the keyboard player from Social D is singing, and we’re doing an Iggy Pop song. Random shit like that is pretty good!”

‘Backstage debauchery’
Gene: “Well, there’s the banana incident. Ty?…”
Ty: “It was Southampton and there was this girl who was some sort of porn actress. So she came to the show, and wanted to hang out backstage. We knew she was kinda dirty, so we decided to push the boundaries to see what we could do with her. Somehow we talked her into using a banana on herself in front of a packed room with us lot plus the opening band!”

‘Who is the ultimate live band?’
Gene: “Actually the Brian Setzer Orchestra. I know it’s not really punk rock, but it’s unreal.”
Kev: “I saw Black Sabbath a few years ago and it was probably the best show I’ve ever seen. So that’s pretty much it from me!”
Brent: “I always hear these stories about how you’ve gotta see Prince, you’ve gotta see Neil Diamond, you’ve gotta see Bruce Springsteen. All this stuff is apparently phenomenal, but I’ve never seen any of it.”
A dry silence breaks out, as the band all look at Brent.”
Gene: “Dude, did you just say Neil Diamond!?”


Interview: Gary Sutherland © 2008.