Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 1st, 2005
Interview with Gene Hunter, bass player and one of the founding members of Carnival of Souls.
Gene, tell us what music today is like?
People are being fed music that they don’t want through most of TV and radio. You would have classic bands like Iron Maiden and Kiss selling out big arenas, but you would never hear them on the radio.
The radio and TV were not getting it. The industry doesn’t get it. There is a definite need for good music today and the fans want it. You see TV dominated by bands or singers like Britney Spears or Usher. There is more to the music world then those types of acts. TV is one of the main avenues to break a band like Disturbed or Evanescence. I think they were very lucky to get the exposure and be broken on MTV and other music channels. It is a combination of radio and TV that helps a band get known along with touring. Radio stations today are going back to the roots of metal. Even stations like K-Rock are playing arena type rock.
They will play U2 and Green day but they will also play RUSH, Ozzy and even Megadeth. There was a lot of whining going on with these punk bands monopolizing the radio for a while. I really shouldn’t call them punk, they are boy bands that are pop trying to be punk. Sex Pistols - that’s punk.
I think people want music that gets them pumped. Loud guitars and drums that hit you in the chest. They want guys who can play; they want to see a show… And that’s what we’re doing…what people have been missing. We have been getting compared to all arena acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Disturbed in recent magazines and write ups. It is just amazing just to be mentioned in the same sentences with those guys. We’ve looked up to these guys growing up and we’re getting compared to them. I think rock and metal fans should go out and support these bands. Buy their CD’s, Judas Priest is touring right now go out to the show and support them. In terms of attendance at concerts like Ozzfest or Kiss and Aerosmith or Iron Maiden they are usually sellouts because it’s the music people want to hear worldwide. The record industry should realize there is a huge market place for rock and metal.
Do you think that is why all these festivals are so popular?
I think the festivals are safety in numbers and it’s better to play with a few bands because it will bring a large audience. Very few bands can go into a large arena and sell it out. There are so many fees that promoters have to pay and high costs for bands just to perform in these places. So I think the festivals are a start for some bands. There are several bands that can sell out more than one night in an arena and with metal on the rise you will start seeing a lot more of that.
Look at Motley CruË during the last tour they could not sell a ticket before they parted ways. Now they are back with a new tour and selling out places. What is your take on that?
TV had said CRUË is doing so good because there is no competition, no more rock stars. Maybe they’re right in a sense that people are looking for this type of band, The Rock Star type of band. The funny thing is that we were in negotiation with Motley CruË’s management to open for some dates and this was going on for six or seven months. At the last minute, after they saw our DVD, they decided to change the “Red ,White and CRUË” tour to “Carnival of Sin” Tour. That was pretty funny - just a few letters off. That is one band we would have liked to play with. I can’t see them taking out a band like Sum 41 that is not the type of band the audience wants to see on a CRUË tour. I guess they wanted something kind of different on the bill, or maybe there are other reasons why after seeing our videos. They are a great band and I’m glad they’re doing well.
I hope Priest does well too, I really like their album. If you want to see a real show, spend your money on acts like MAIDEN, PRIEST, KISS, Ozzfest. How people fork over their dollars to see Britney Spears lip sync the whole concert is scary.
People want real bands. That is why U2 sellout shows because they are real. They plug in and they play, they sing, they write their own songs - it isn’t like a whole corporation writing all their songs. A perfect example is AC/DC; this is a band that has never changed their sound or stage show. They are a great band and true to their music.They also have a new album coming out which I am looking forward to.
What is your take on music through the Internet?
You guys at Rockeyez are doing a great job because you’re taking it from the streets and bringing to the internet into peoples homes. So besides magazines like Hit Parader and Metal Edge, what other avenues are there? Internet is one of the best ways of doing it. So in a sense we put our videos on our site, and what happens, it’s like our own MTV. People anywhere in the world don’t have to wait to see COS they can watch it on our website. Same thing as to what you guys are doing with whatever bands you are covering at the time. If it is Def LEPPARD, EUROPE, people are able to tap in to that and get info. It’s a great avenue.
You will see more and more band looking for that. It is hard for bands to get their point across today. We have street teams all over the world in every country giving out promo pictures, DVD’s and sample CD’s. It spreads fast and gets passed on from one fan to another, it really works to our advantage. The people at Rockeyez pushing it are so great too. People reading your site that are looking for other bands might see COS and say, “Hey, who is CARNIVAL OF SOULS?” and read about us. When I go to your site and see a band that is interesting, I read about them.
You know our site Rockeyez all started months ago with our debut featuring Carnival of Souls as our first article.
Do we get a piece of the site? (ha-ha) I appreciate that. Bands even as big as Def Leppard or Europe want to reach their fans or future fans. Every avenue of promotion is great. We played down in Texas; we did two nights… six thousand people a night…we were co-headliners and it was amazing. So many people knew of us because of the internet. They knew the songs and they waited for autographs. After the show, we sold out of all our merchandise and the crowd went crazy. This is what they want, bands to go up there and give them an over the top show.
What was the first album you ever bought?
AC/DC, IRON MAIDEN and Kiss records. I was kind of bitten by that whole arena rock. The bands that have influenced me Van Halen, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche, in terms of stage production……that is stuff we tend to like and are trying to do by taking it to another level in a darker way… in a more cinematic way… like "The Crow.” Like a movie type vibe.
That’s were we got the name of the band from an originals sixties movie called “CARNIVAL OF SOULS.” Wes Craven did a remake of the movie also.
What was the first concert you attended?
Believe it or not, I was a little kid, and my uncle and brother took me to a show by a band called Chicago. I had no idea about the music I was completely bored. I kept going to get hotdogs and sodas. It was so boring to me. A great talented band but I just couldn’t relate to them. Then after that, I was taken to my first KISS concert. Then it was AC/DC, IRON MAIDEN and that was it. I knew that this was what rock and roll was about. Now I go see Disturbed, Godsmack, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, I dig those guys.
What kind of kid were you in school?
Kind of rebellious, but in a good way I did things my own way I associated with people I liked. I did not go by peer pressure or wanted to be on the football team. I just did it my own thing. I got of along with pretty much everyone.
What was the last CD you listened to?
Alter Bridge. I think the production was excellent.
What was your feeling when 9-11 took place?
Being a New York band, it was like a bad dream. I actually drove by the Trade Center that morning after recording in the studio and one of the guys in the band said, “I hate coming to Manhattan I always get lost.”
So I had said to him “If you ever get lost look for the World Trade Center it will always be there. That is where the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is and the way home.” We finally got home after a late night of recording and I was a sleep maybe an hour or so and my phone rings, He says “You’re not going believe this, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” I couldn’t believe it we just drove by earlier. It came down and in the next twenty minutes. He was so freaked out because I had just said it will always be there. It was so strange. I really thought it would always be there. So many people were lost. I lost friends and firemen I knew. It was all very sad. I wrote a song, which is a ballad that we were not even going to put on the album called “Just for a moment.” It deals with that whole 9-11 experience and what the people went through. Missing that phone call from a loved one, hearing a message on the answering machine or not being home during that time while your someone was trapped in the building… So one day while we were down in Florida recording, I played it to Lee on acoustic guitar and sang it before we went in to the studio. He goes, “Dude! We got to record that!” It is the saddest song I ever heard. He got on the keyboards and started playing it. I wasn’t sure if I it really goes with what we were doing but Lee felt we should break it up a little. Our album is skull crushing with powerful songs but we put this song on in dedication to all the people who lost someone in 9-11. It’s kind of different but everyone who has heard it liked it.
Were you in any bands before Carnival of Souls?
Yeah, I was in many different bands. Bands leading up to COS but they never seemed to get off the ground due to the other guys never being team players. Every band I have been in, and this is for any bands out there, you have to look at it as a football team. How can you get to the Super Bowl if you’re not going to play as a team? Every player has to have the other guys back. You have to stick together no matter what happens. If you have stuff like drugs, girlfriends, lazy people and jealousy, this will definitely bring the band down. I know too many people who have died due to substance abuse. It destroys bands. You have to have a band that is mentally stable and ready to take over the world. So as far as the bands that I have been in, they are not worth mentioning. They were just a waste of time for me and a big let down. Now with COS, we have five stable people who are focused; who all want to do this. I have never played with a better group of guys. They are all great people.
When did the band actually start?
We have been together about four years.
How did you all get together?
Basically, I started writing some tunes and recording them. Several people heard them and thought I should get back into playing and put a band together. One night a friend of mine named Mike took me to this club to see a band he knew. A soon as I walked in and heard “THE MACHINE” I said, “This guy is awesome.” “This is my guy.” He was playing System of the Down and Alice in Chain. He had a modern type guitar sound but he reminds me of some of the greats like Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen and Ace Frehley. Guys I admire. We talked about the things we were into, our style of music and we both realized we were looking for the same things out of a band. After getting together and knowing it gelled, we knew the only way these songs can come alive is with a singer that can take us to the next level. We needed someone whose vocals would be powerful and unique. A real front man that was unstoppable. That’s where Lee came in. The guy is just unbelievable. Lee is a true front man. His vocals are so powerful, he can sing, he can scream and he can control an audience. He belongs up there and can compete with the best.
Recently we were in need of a solid powerhouse drummer who can perform the high energy music we are playing. So we contacted Bobby Rock, who I saw many times, a great drummer, and a powerhouse drummer who can play the material we wanted. We contacted Bobby in California and after hearing the CD, he said “Dude, I’m in, what does it take. I’m there.” We flew him into New York, shot 3 videos, and recorded the new album titled “Ashes to Ashes” at Laughing Dog Studios in New York. Now we’re mixing the CD and we will be mastering over at Master Disk with Roger Lian in the next few weeks.
Being a bass player, what bass players do you admire?
My biggest influences are guitar players, Ace Frehley, Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads. Bass is Steve Harris and Geezer Butler.
Who came up with Damien? That masked band member.
Damien is the harmonies of this band, a character who took a life of its own. When you see our stage show, it’s very dark and gothic. Skulls and Souls trying to escape in the walls of this Gothic City, Damian is part of that show.
Did Stet Howland leave COS?
Stet did not leave. We just parted ways. We had to move ahead because of his choices, life style, and agreements with WASP; it was taking away from COS. To tell you the truth Bobby Rock was our original choice. At that time, he was doing some gigs with the band Slaughter. So we went to Stet who is a great drummer as well and was available, but as soon as he started doing some things with COS, Blackie gave him a ring and said he decided he wanted to start touring again. So things didn’t work out.
Who came up with the stage show for COS?
We wanted it to be something different than what you usually see. So we created a three dimensional Gothic City based on the album covers artwork. We wanted the artwork to come to life and we achieved that on stage as well as in the videos and photos. We want to give the people a show that goes along with the music COS is playing.
Tell us about the concept to the video for “Grey” and what the box symbolizes in the beginning of the video.
It symbolizes a “Pandora’s box,” and what can happen to an innocent mind from exposure to negativity that’s going on in the world. You notice one girl doesn’t want to go near the box and the other one does. Just like with all of us, some of us a drawn to the negativity, curious to see what happens if you cross that line and others keep on the right path, never letting them selves get pulled in. There’s a fine GREY line we walk. The girl who opens the box will get a glimpse of the evil that goes on in the world. A world with death and destruction. A world we created which has an effect on her. And basically, that is what it does to us all. We start off innocent and then as we walk the path of life, we are exposed to many different things that sometimes change us and the way we think and feel.
You have a second video called “We Are Fall Down” when are fans going to see that?
“We All Fall Down” is finished and I have to say is a really cool video. Right now, we are talking with major labels. We signed to an independent label called Arena 1 which has been really great to us. Then major labels started showing interest in the band so now our Indie label is speaking with them. So we will see what the best deal for COS will be. Unfortunately, this causes some delay in things we wanted to do so we’ll have to be patient. It’s a good thing even though at times waiting can get a little frustrating. So we hope to release “We All Fall Down” very soon. We also shot “Just for the moment” so there will be 3 videos released.
With all the magazines articles and promotion, do you feel you’re under pressure to put the CD out right away?
By the response, we are getting around the world. Everyone keeps asking where they can go to buy the CD, so in a way, yes. We have had the supporting slots for many national acts like Motorhead, Anthrax, QUEENSRYCHE, SUPER JOINT RITUAL, Dream theatre, etc… everywhere we’ve played across the U.S. from NEW YORK to TEXAS to L.A., people want to buy the CD. So we do feel pressure to put it out. The thing is, when you’re talking to major labels, you have to wait sometimes. It gets very taxing and the band gets edgy, but if you really want to have your music released world wide you have to be patient and see what the best deal is for the band.
What are some of the band member’s favorite tracks on the CD?
“Grey” we think is an epic song, then you have tunes like “Break Free” and “See all Evil” that really kick your ass. We’re always changing our minds on which one is our favorite, lol. Right now, my favorite would be “Darkest Hour” then “Grey.”
Were there any songs that did not make the album?
Yes, there was one song called “Why” and “Scream.” We just did not have the time to record them. They will have to be on the next album. The band has enough tunes for another 3 albums.
When you go out on tour, do you have a rider?
Yes, that is very important. We never play anywhere unless we have a rider and contract signed. I can tell you several road stories. When we played in Texas not everything agreed to on the rider was provided when we arrived. So they had to get all our gear from a Guitar Center in Houston. When it got to the venue, it was all brand new gear still with the tags on. All because they did not follow the rider. We didn’t mind, lol. Our rider might also have some out of the ordinary things on it like eating wise; Bobby is a Vegan so he has to have certain things. The rest of us are pretty easy.
Do you have any COS shows in the works?
We have plans for several festivals but everything right now is business and negotiating.
What was the very first show you played as COS?
It was a sold-out show at the Williamson Theater. When COS came out, we didn’t go out as a garage band or club band. We came out with a big arena type show with impact. There was a lot of promotion and we started creating a buzz. We knew we were doing the right thing and it was good when everyone waited in the lobby after the shows for autographs. We would talk with the fans and magazine people and they would all keep telling us that we don’t belong in these places. This show should be in an arena. We took that as a great compliment because it was exactly what we were trying to achieve, giving people a good performance. So from there on out, when people would ask us “What kind of music do you guys play?” we’d say “ARENA METAL.”
How about the Tribeca show; was that a coming out party for the video “Grey?”
Yes. That was just for industry people. What happen is we won a worldwide contest from Hit Parader magazine with thousands of bands who had entered? We CD ranked number one with Atlantic Records and Hit Parader Magazine. We are very proud of that. To win a National contest is a big accomplishment, but to win a worldwide contest is awesome.
I am going to mention a few words. Tell us what comes to mind:
Image - Image should be natural, an extended part of your music. Our image is who we are and that says a lot.
Stage Show - That’s along the same lines as your image. A stage show should be an extended part of the bands music as well. It adds to the excitement and energy a band gives to their audience. Our stage show is like a surrounding city that we perform in front of. It only fits a band that likes to perform. You should be over the top with energy and excitement if you’re going to have a stage show. It just adds a cool sense of theatrics to what we’re already about.
Fans - COS fans seem kind of different. COS fans are very cool. They seem to have the same agenda that we have, trying to support the music and get it known to everyone. They street team on their own passing around sample CD’s and turning others onto us. Coming out to every show. You couldn’t ask for more out of your fans. They are COS SOULGERS.
Recording - It’s a very magical thing when the chemistry in a band is right. That part of recording is a lot of fun and rewarding, the creating part of it. It can also be very taxing. At times, it gets to be a bit stressful only because you’re always striving to make it better. You want it to be perfect and for everything to go smooth. For COS, you can’t beat playing LIVE.
Management - We have a great management team. The first time our management (Lev Ari Management Group) saw the band we were performing at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey where Bon Jovi plays. Mr. Lev Ari heard about COS, came down and sat in the balcony. After seeing the bands performance and hearing our material they felt we had something unique and wanted to work with us. They are totally supportive and believe in everything we’re doing...
A day off - A sexy woman… What more can we say…
Future - Just playing and performing all over the world. Getting the band out there to do what we love to do and meeting the fans.
Friends - We have so many friends, people who have been there from the beginning who believe in this band. I wish I could mention them all but it would be too long a list. They know who they are and how much we appreciate their support. Then you have our techs like Pete Calise and Scott Stover, NEVER letting us down, always busting their asses, those guys are awesome and irreplaceable.
Band Members - What can I say….Only to be very lucky in having a great bunch of brothers. Lee is a great… a great front man with a natural ability to relate to whatever crowd we are in front of. The crowds just love the guy. He has an awesome voice and doesn’t sound like anyone he’s very original. Lee is also a cool guy to hang out with. He is the funny wild guy in the band. Rob “The Machine” is exactly that, he is the machine when it comes to playing his guitar. The guy is non stop and is unbelievable live. He is the laid back guy in the band, quiet and calm, and a great person to be around, but when it comes to the stage, he is aggressive, a deadly performer… Bobby is a great overall guy. Probably one of the best drummers I have ever heard. He will do it all and always strives for the best. On a one day notice, he flew in learned two songs and shot two videos coming in from California. He is amazing. Damien is the soul of the band, great harmonies and a great heart. Always there to make sure things are right for everyone.
Were you worried when you filmed the video for “We All Fall Down” when Bobby fell off the drum kit and did not get up?
I was worried at that point. Things like that happen. You were there that day. It was like sixteen degrees in the building. We filmed for fourteen hours in sixteen degree temperature. The joints in our fingers were hurting so bad. We filmed three videos in one day that is unheard of.
Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Yeah. I think it is great what Rockeyez is doing. It would be cool to see more people like you who are dedicated and supportive of Metal. Rockeyez is a great avenue for all bands new and old school to stream their music. It gives fans the opportunity to check in and see what’s going on in the rock and roll world with their favorite band or maybe getting turned onto a new band that they might not have known about. It’s like reading a metal magazine, only it’s on line. You’ll see, Rockeyez will just keep getting bigger and bigger….thanks a lot!
If you want to see a CARNIVAL OF SOULS video or hear some music clips, just go to www.CARNIVALOFSOULSonLine.com.
You can also catch COS in the JUNE 2005 issue of Hit Parader Magazine.