The Bullets confess their love for unconventional tales with latest album ‘Go Man Go’.
While not quite taking the magical mystery bus just yet when it comes to dabbling with experimentation, The Bullets sophomore album ‘Go Man Go’ followed a similar formula to its rockin’ predecessor ‘Sons of The Gun’, only this time around more steel was added to its interior, the narratives became darker and the lip curling snarl certainly got bigger. The increased robustness, darker edges and brashness of attitude has not gone unnoticed as the trio comprising of Brett Waters (vocals/guitar), Gary Griffin (drums) and Tony Nihill (bass) have been on the receiving end of some very high praise from a variety of music publications, as well as experiencing a growing popularity that has seen the band bring down the house at this year’s Hotrod Hayride and live dates scheduled for Europe and the States next year.
With Famous Last Words (FLW) being among those equally enamoured with The Bullets new long player (see our review last month), we took it upon ourselves to telegram an invite to the dynamic trio in order to obtain a track-by-track rundown of the components making up ‘Go Man Go’.
The response was instantaneous with an agreed meeting to take place in Oslo with two thirds of The Bullets able to make the trip north, leaving Tony Nihill the odd man out due to work commitments. Despite Tony’s non-attendance, his fellow bandmates paid tribute to the songs penned by their bass player, as well as detailed accounts of their own contributions to ‘Go Man Go’.
As a plate of biscuits is handed round and cups of tea made (how very rock ‘n’ roll!), The Beatles ‘I Am The Walrus’ spins in the background and that unforgettable line, ‘I am the eggman, They are the eggmen, I am the walrus, Goo goo g’ joob’ seems even more significant somehow, the conversation flows with Brett revealing himself to be something of a film buff, waxing lyrical about his vast DVD collection back home whereas Gary confesses to owning approximately four films due to a lack of interest.
Once the general discussion dies down after some considerable time and Gary passing on a second Bourbon biscuit due to being reminded of a now, regrettable pre-flight meal , it’s finally down to business and that being a look inside the contents of ‘Go Man Go’ seen through the eyes of two of its creators, Brett Waters and Gary Griffin.
‘Party Like Me’
“This was the last track for the album and it was written about the lead singer from my previous band, Slim Slip and the Sliders,” begins Gary. “The lead singer was, when I met him, the ultimate party animal. In fact, when I first met him he absolutely blew me away because nobody lives like this character! For example, he would often spend a whole weekend [sleeping] on someone else’s floor, despite having a house of his own, but he would usually spend his life on other people’s floors. So he lived this life that I could only aspire to, and knew that I couldn’t [match], but everything in that song is literally about him.”
“I wanted to write a classic rockabilly song, but I didn’t want to try too hard,” explains Brett. “There’s a rockabilly song called ‘Jeopardy’ by Jean Shepard and it contains the line, ‘Jeopardy, Jeopardy, Just got to have you next to me, You put a voodoo hex on me, And now my heart’s in jeopardy’ and I thought that was a brilliant idea for a song. So I wrote it in about three minutes, as some of the best songs that we’ve written are often our quickest. The song itself is about a guy who has left his ex-wife who, in return, took all of his money and didn’t give the ring back. As a result, the guy feels as if she has put a hex on him because he doesn’t feel very well and every time he turns around she is there smiling,” he finishes with a broad smile.
‘Real King Bee’
“It wasn’t meant to be an Elvis reference, as there’s a song called ‘Tornado’ by the Jiants and it’s one of those rockabilly classics,” states Gary. “I’ve always loved the tremolo guitar on that record, so I wanted to write something with a similar guitar feel. I had written the music and the melody a while back, but the one thing that I was struggling with was a lyric to go with it. I quite liked the idea of someone who is full of himself with a bit of an ego, but I couldn’t find the right lyric to go with it. I decided to take the song idea to Brett and asked if he could write some lyrics to go with it as it was driving me crazy! Within a couple of days, Brett came back with a whole lyric about the hotrod thing and how this character is a hotrod star. There’s a sexual undercurrent to the whole thing as well, so it was perfect!”
“Basically, it’s about a guy during the 50s who street races hotrods for kicks and spends most of his time meeting nice women and shows off about his car,” adds Brett. “Once his sexual conquest is over, he basically turns the other way as all he is interested in is the next street race. So not the nicest person you’d want to meet as indicated by the end lyric with, ‘The only one around here I love is me’.”
‘Kicks Like ’56’
“Tony gave us a demo CD and there was a song called ‘Kicks Like ’86’,” comments Brett on the first of Tony Nihill’s compositions on ‘Go Man Go’. “Gary and I thought that although it was a very good song, it needed another title. So we came up with ‘Kicks Like ’56’ with the idea that it could be about today’s rockabilly scene, but we’re going to get our kicks as in ’56 by doing all of the things they did in ’56 with the clothes and the drinking and so on.”
“Tony already had that lyric, which was a personal reference and straight out of the John Lennon school of song writing where he’s writing about himself,” continues Gary. “So when Tony was a kid, all he was dreaming about was being in a band and hanging out with girls. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s all about what he was doing back then, as he was living his life like he was in the 50s, and that’s always been his ethos. Therefore, the whole song is Tony’s perspective about wishing that he lived during the 50s.”
‘While You Were Sleeping’
“Do I own up to this? I think I’ve said before that I tend to write in the third person and nine out of ten times I occasionally take ideas,” confesses Gary regarding his song writing. “I remember once that I was dumped by a girl when I was about seventeen, and I was absolutely crushed because she gave no indication that she was going to end the relationship. So I decided to confront her in the hope of an explanation why I had been dumped. I ended up outside her mum’s house one evening, but then suddenly had a change of heart and thinking how stupid it was me being there and couldn’t believe that I had taken such drastic actions. When I wrote the song, I thought back to that moment and thought how easy it would be if you applied the narrative in a different way, because other people might see no problem in terms of my actions. I was the one who tried to confront her, and felt uncomfortable doing that, and what was I going to do anyway? I wasn’t exactly going to knock on the door and talk to her, as I was just an idiot! But I was crushed and didn’t know any different. So when I came to write the song, it occurred to me that if I had been a bit more twisted and wired in a different way, I would have seen nothing wrong in hanging outside her house. So the whole idea for the song derived from that [incident] and it literally was a one-off event. If the ex-girlfriend ever reads this, then I really wasn’t stalking her [laughing]! But that just goes to show how easy it must be for somebody to think stalking is perfectly ok, because it most certainly isn’t.”
“When I sang the song for the first time, I was thinking about this dark, dangerous and murderous character,” comments Brett. “So when I sing the song now, I’m thinking of this character with murderous thoughts and how he’s in this house, watching and waiting until the victim falls asleep and then he’s going to kill her.”
“You see what I mean? You added another level to that song, and I wrote the lyric!” reacts Gary with a mixture of glee and concern regarding Brett’s interpretation of the song. “But really, I’m worried about what is going on in your mind!” he finishes with a slightly nervous laugh.
“Again, some people who’ve listened to this song have not listened to it deeply enough because they’ve said that they think I’m calling a woman a bitch, which is not the case,” clarifies Brett regarding the song ‘Bitch’. “The song is actually about a guy who works as a henchman for a London gangster and ends up taking the fall for something nasty. He actually gets ten years in prison and ends up doing five of those years and then gets out. What he realises during those years inside, it should have been his boss in prison and not him, yet he took the fall and said nothing. When he comes out of prison he receives nothing; there is no payoff, there’s no respect and he’s expected to just go back to being a henchman for this guy. He decides he doesn’t want to do this any more, and ends up killing his boss so that he can start a new life. It’s quite a dark song because the title refers to this character’s boss, and it’s used in anger at the way he’s been treated and ultimately ending up with nothing.”
“When I hear you talking about it, you actually scare me a little bit!” says Gary rather worriedly. “I don’t know if I want to sit in the same room with you! I think I’m travelling home alone after this interview [laughing]. Going back to the song, it almost crosses over into a post-punk sound, not The Undertones particularly, but more The Buzzcocks as it’s got a different edge to it as there’s a sixties riff in there with a Ray Davies type thing. Out of all the tracks, and if you’re a true authentic rockabilly, that is the one that might make you feel you’re not sure about it, but that’s one of the reasons why I like it.”
“The storyline is right out there, as there aren’t many rockabilly songs that are going to be accepted on the scene that have got that kind of storyline to them,” picks up Brett on the unconventional nature of the lyrics in relation to rockabilly music. “I just felt that with that riff, the song flowed nicely and therefore I didn’t want to change it, and soften it up, because we don’t often write about love, which FLW summed up about The Bullets last year.”
“But it’s true though, boy meets girl, boy goes out with girl, boy falls out with girl and then, in extreme circumstances, girl dies. What I’m trying to say is that there are only so many places you can go with that theme regarding love and relationships because it’s all been done so many times before. Therefore, by trying to explore different avenues is hopefully refreshing for the people listening to our music, as it’s certainly refreshing for us as songwriters,” explains Gary passionately.
“We’ve said all along that we’re not going to stifle that aspect of The Bullets. For example, if I write a song about a hit man or you write a song about a stalker, then that’s what it’s going to be about. I have never asked Gary to change a storyline because if it’s from your heart and that’s what you believe, then that’s what we are going to write about.”
“Yeah, interesting song and one that is again a personal reflection of Tony’s own life as he’s suffered from panic attacks, as a lot of us have experienced as well,” says Gary. “So we made the song slightly quirky, with Brett coming up with the guitar riff that sounds slightly unhinged in order to lighten the song a bit. If you listen to the lyrics, they’re very simple and heartfelt and how a person would suffer with a panic attack in the sense that they can’t explain it.”
“When we arranged the music for the song, it’s more or less as Tony designed it,” continues Brett. “Tony makes a reference in the song about not being able to tell his friends because they’ll think that he’s mad, but when he told us about this experience, we both related to what he was feeling because we’ve all suffered from panic attacks in our lives.”
“We purposely made the music slightly bouncier or slightly unhinged as I said earlier, but we didn’t make the music dark as we thought that would be too much,” Gary adds. “We wanted to try and almost lighten the text in terms of what Tony was saying, but not to belittle it. Therefore, the song is on two levels as you have a song that you can stroll to and then you have the piano theme going with a little bit of Bo Diddley, so you’ve got that element that people can dance to. But if people delve deeper in terms of the lyrics, then suddenly there’s this whole other level of stuff going on.”
“The original idea Tony had for the song had been far too upbeat. Therefore, we decided that we shouldn’t be singing it in that way and that a little bit of darkness wouldn’t sound out of place, but not with it becoming too dark,” says Brett.
“However, we did take the original context of the song, as Brett picked up on earlier, as Tony had put a tune to it that was almost jolly and it was quite weird (This original demo sounds very enticing and needs to be heard! FLW). Therefore, we liked the original dynamic and used it to a certain extent with only minor changes.”
‘Can I Take You Home’
“Tony’s genius was at work once more in terms of this song,” says Gary enthusiastically. “It’s the way he works where he’ll bring a demo to the band and it’s very basic, with just him and a guitar, and he likes us adding layers and building it up. ‘Can I Take You Home’ was stripped down, but everything was in place from the tone and arrangement, apart from our instruments being adding to the song, we didn’t change a thing.”
“Not really, no, apart from taking a couple of verses out because it was a very long song originally,” adds Brett.
“The sense of space and the relaxed tone and slight jazzy feel to the song was all Tony’s ideas; therefore, all we really did was elaborate further on Tony’s demo,” explains Gary.
“That really pushed me musically to come up with a jazzy style guitar solo because I’m essentially a rockabilly guitarist,” comments Brett. “However, in terms of the song, I thought that a rockabilly solo, no matter how slow I play it, was not going to work. So I just went away and listened to a few records and experimented with a few different guitar licks in order to achieve the sound I was looking for.”
“I did the same sort of thing because a lot of my drumming sounds as if I’m attacking somebody rather than playing drums! So for me to actually be playing with brushes and sounding smooth and relaxed was actually great fun! Also, it was great texture for the album, as well as great texture for us as musicians, and it really pushed us,” remembers Gary.
‘Goin’ To Hell’
“I wrote this song really for Brett. When we did the first album, we recorded the song ‘Desperate Man’, but the thing that blew me away with Brett is his vocal delivery, whereas with some singers you need to put a load of instrumentation in there and almost hide the vocals. Where Brett’s vocal is so pure, you can strip down the instrumentation to almost a minimum and his voice will carry a song. That’s the beauty of his voice, as it’s almost Tom Jones in that kind of way. So I wanted to write a song that we could strip right down and had a real story to tell and that he could go into his thespian mode and deliver that song as that person. So, ‘Goin’ To Hell’ is essentially about a guy who has never had much of a life. For example, his father left at an early age and, as a result, he ends up going through the school of hard knocks by being in the wrong crowd which results in the tragic event of him eventually killing a guy. Therefore, the song is actually sung from the perspective of a prison cell and I wanted to capture that sense of desperation and the fact that this guy had ruined his life. When Brett delivered the song [first time] he got quite emotional about it because he was really in to it, which is exactly what I wanted because the instrumentation was purposely played down as it was all about his voice and so I knew that I had to write a lyric that would give his voice some justice.”
‘Tail of a Snake’
“I came up with the riff first, and then I thought that I needed a really juicy story to go with it as, again, it sounded a bit dark and quite dangerous,” recollects Brett on the making of ‘Tail of a Snake’. “I came up with this narrative where this guy meets this girl and her skin is white like snow but her hair is jet black and she’s really dangerous but intoxicating. He also feels that one kiss from her is like an injection of pure evil, but he’s addicted to it as suggested by the line, ‘Drink her in, Become full of sin’ in the sense that he only has to kiss her and he feels that he’ll do anything to be with her. It’s one of my favourite songs that I have written because of the down tuned structure of the chords, and it’s a little bit different from anything I’ve written in the past.”
“It’s got a real edge to it as it’s dark with quite a grungy type of sound, which is nice because it complements the other tracks on the album,” agrees Gary regarding the song’s slightly different nature.
“There’s a line in there that says, ‘I burn a lock of her blue-black hair and I breathe deep and I don’t care’ because he’s so obsessed with her that he cut a lock of her hair while she was sleeping and set fire to it and inhaled the f****** smoke! What kind of a man does that kind of thing? I don’t know!” screams Brett comically. “Seriously speaking though, we’ve all had relationships where it has been the wrong person and you know that you should walk away but simply can’t due to the strong feelings you still hold. Some people have lost their minds over a man or woman and that’s the kind of s*** that happens. I would say however, don’t breathe in smoke from hair and that’s the moral of the song [laughing].”
‘Go Man Go’
“It’s very difficult for a lead guitarist to come up with a lead lick that sounds original and has the essence of a 50s sound,” says Brett. “I played on my guitar for hours looking for that, as most of the licks I come across I often find by accident. I didn’t plan on writing the song about anything, as the song developed as a guy who finishes work on a Friday and throws all his stuff in the back of his truck and drives ten blocks to where his girlfriend lives and they go out on the town. By the time Monday arrives, he feels like he has been hit by a train. Then he works all week until Friday, picks up his pay and does it all over again. That’s what I used to do when playing on the rockin’ scene; I would work all week and then get my weekly pay on a Friday, spend it all drinking and going wild at the clubs and then by Monday I was broke with nothing left. So I’d go back to work on Monday and do it all over again, and that’s what the song is about in terms of when I was younger and carefree in my attitude, as I didn’t have the debt of life round my neck.”
‘Devil In Heels’
“Again, I was writing from a third person perspective, but it’s also slightly observational as the rockabilly scene has a core of girls you really need to stay away from, in the sense that they’ve got no scruples and just want a trophy and to wreak anything as they don’t care,” explains Gary. “I’ve seen that happen as I have very good friends who’ve been hurt really badly where they’ve been tempted by somebody else and, of course, after it’s happened all hell lets loose. By the time this has happened, the girl in question has moved on to somebody else. So the song is really an observation of seeing people that I have known for a very long time become really hurt because they can’t hold their feelings back, which kind of serves them right, but it’s also about one guy informing another to not go down that route.”
“‘Movin’ On’ was actually delivered to us as part of the demo CD Tony produced,” answers Brett. “It turned out that the song was inspired by the Foo Fighters’ ‘Skin and Bones’. Although the structure of Tony’s original demo was good, Gary and I agreed that we couldn’t do it.”
“What Tony had done was that he took the song ‘Skin and Bones’ and then made his own arrangement and produced it in a style that is not too dissimilar from the version you hear now,” replies Gary. “In fact, it was tremendous because it actually didn’t sound like ‘Skin and Bones’. So I suggested to Tony that he should take the time to write some lyrics and to leave the music to Brett and me for this one particular track. As a result of this decision, Brett and I started to come up with a lot of ideas and when we all got back together, we had essentially original music based upon Tony’s arrangement and with his own lyrics. So when you put the two together, you come up with an original song.”
“In fact, Tony’s original idea inspired all of us to write a completely different style of song, with different lyrics and because Tony had that [initial] idea that we didn’t want to use, that whole process then inspired us to write a new song that we did want to use,” comments Brett.
“Tony often does that as he might write something completely leftfield, which leaves you amazed because you don’t see it coming, and then you work at it and because you’re working at such songs from such a strange angle, you end up writing something wholly original,” continues Gary. “All of Tony’s songs seem to do that, with ‘Panic Attack’ and ‘Can I Take You Home’ especially, because he’s thinking in a completely different way.”
‘Last Man Standing’
“Can I start this one off as I want to say something amazing?” asks Brett of his close friend and song writing partner Gary. “We’ve been together as a band for four years and we’ve never written a song as the three of us in a studio environment. I’ve never thought that it couldn’t be done, but it’s not the way we have written songs to date. In order to explain, we rehearsed a couple of sets in preparation for a big gig that we had. During these rehearsals, Gary suddenly stopped for a moment and said that he had an idea. I asked what it was and he suddenly mentioned that we should write a song. I remember thinking that it could be a difficult proposition, but Gary said he had a great idea for a track and it was called ‘Last Man Standing’.”
“We had about twenty minutes left of our rehearsal session and I had this idea for ‘Last Man Standing’, which is about a classic example of when people go to a club – this could be rockabilly club or whatever – and there is always a guy at the end of the night who is off his face, doesn’t know that the night has come to an end and doesn’t want to go home. Basically, he wants to fight the world and he wants to be the last man standing because he’s held his liquor whereas everyone else has collapsed. So I’ve always wanted to write a song about that, but again, it was one of those things where I’ve had an idea, but I’m unsure of how to deliver it. So I suggested the idea to Brett and Tony and they were really keen, and ended up running off in separate directions and came back with different ideas. Also, I wanted the song to reflect that lack of eloquence when somebody is in that position of being completely drunk, which Tony suggested with the appropriate line, ‘My fist, Your face’ because that’s exactly what a drunk person is going to say as they’re not going to dress it up in any other way. So the lyrics of the song are very simple, and they’re meant to be, because the guy, of course, is drunk and he’s very simple.”
“The last main line of the last part of the verse from that song suggests such a mood regarding the central character where he’s saying, in a very drunk fashion, that he’s made his point, doesn’t know why and he’s not quite sure what the point was in the first place [laughing]!”
“It starts off by sounding like an aggressive song, but actually it’s really us having a bit of fun and is meant as very tongue-in-cheek,” Gary explains. “So we just wanted to end a song that ideally we had written together, but also just to poke fun at ourselves a little bit.”
‘Go Man Go’ is out now and available on Western Star Records
By trying to explore different avenues is hopefully refreshing for the people listening to our music, as it's certainly refreshing for us as songwriters."
Gary Griffin, The Bullets
FLW - From the Tapes
What were the decisions for the album title and artwork for ‘Go Man Go’?
“I think ‘Go Man Go’ is a good title to use because sometimes you need a snappy title,” says Gary. “Also, the title sounds very fifties and of that period. I think subliminally there’s another thing to this song because it was the very first song we brought to the table in preparation for the second album. So it’s always been there as a possibility for the album’s title and it’s always sounded good and we’ve had longer to play with it.”
“When Gary and I started to discuss ideas for the cover, we both agreed that we would like a real 50s style for the album,” continues Brett. “So, ‘Go Man Go’ became the natural choice for a name because if you’ve got that 50s looking cover, then you do need a 50s title to go with it. The album artwork was inspired by some album covers of Elvis and namely ‘Loving You’, ‘GI Blues’ and ‘Elvis’. We liked the colouring used for the ‘GI Blues’ album and we both decided that we should use that idea but with three blocks with our photos in each block.”
“Tony loved the idea and it really blew him away,” recollects Gary regarding the album artwork. “I think it’s important if you want to be a rockabilly band, which we do, that the whole package is tailored to a rockabilly style. If you have a rockabilly album but with a modern cover, then it doesn’t really make any sense. If you’re going to go down that route, then you’ve got to do it as authentically as possible. For example, the music can be original, but I think the actual style and how it looks has got to be authentic. By producing it in that way, people will look at it and identify with it and hopefully, when they listen to the content, they will still accept it as a rockabilly album, even though we’re doing our own kind thing with it.”