Bruce Bouillet And The Order of Control
If you were a fan of shred guitar, particularly Racer X in the 80s, you’re aware of Bruce Bouillet. He’s the only other guy in the world who could keep up with Paul Gilbert! The man not only has astounding, world-beating chops, but exceptional melodic sense as well. He also has a bluesy side, which he showcased post-Racer X in the criminally underrated – there, I said it – band The Scream (a band that also featured then-future one-time Motley Crue frontman John Corabi) in the 90s. An unfortunate, debilitating hand injury sidelined Bruce as a guitar player for nearly a decade. But he never really left the industry, transitioning to production. His work on Motorhead’s “Whiplash” earned the album a Grammy nod in 2005. Since regaining the ability to play, he’s also formed a music licensing library. He’s done extensive work for film and TV placement over the last few years. You’ve probably heard his work on broadcasts of the NFL, MLB, or perhaps NASCAR and didn’t even know it. In 2007 he did a G3 tour with Gilbert, John Pettrucci and Joe Satriani. He’s also released two solo albums, “Unspoken” and “Interventions.”
Bruce’s latest instrumental release “The Order of Control” proves he’s back with a vengeance. And there’s more to come, including vocal tracks. But let there be no doubt, he has returned as a guitar force to be reckoned with. The disc is a tour de force of how an instrumental shred album should be done: the music has hooks for days (unusual in shred or instrumental music) and the melodies evolve and change, never allowing the music to stagnate or the listener a chance to get bored. There are, of course, jaw-dropping guitar “WTF did he just do there?!?” moments but the entire effort stresses soaring melodies and style over pure flash. As it should be. Never at any point is the music over your head in a pompous, indecipherable “look how hard we shred” kind of way. There’s plenty of riffing to be had, but it’s not about the riffs. The album flows as a whole – with interesting segues like in “Crowd Control.” Needless to say the production is top-notch, and having Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Orianthi) on drums and Dave Foreman (Tupac, DJ Quik) on bass as your rhythm section can’t hurt either.
What you may not know about Bruce is that he is a longtime Seymour Duncan JB user, even during the Racer X days, and he told me at Duncan’s NAMM party that it’s all over “The Order of Control.” I recently had a chance to catch up with Bruce again and talk about the new release, Duncan pickups, and what’s next, as The Order of Control is morphing into a band project.
Did you feel any additional pressure after you absence from the guitar scene to ramp up the shred factor on “The Order of Control”?
Not really. When I started the new CD the intention was to focus more on the writing. And being that this was my first concept album, I really wanted it to have a flow where you would want to listen to it in order from start to finish. Of course I wanted to include some high-end playing, but the priority was on being musical.
When you injured your hand, what was the nature of it, and what was your recovery process? It seems you’re beyond “fully” recovered – your chops are as strong as they ever were from what I’m hearing!
That goes back to the late 80s. Near the end of Racer X, I ended up with carpal tunnel, it pretty much brought my playing to a halt. By the mid 90s I had quit playing all together and was producing and recording bands. It was till 2005 that I had a full recovery and began to play full time. Shortly after that I reunited with Paul Gilbert for a tour of Japan and the G3 2007 tour.
Do your production skills help or hinder you as an artist? Was there a tendency to overproduce yourself, or are you your own easiest client to work with?
Definitely helps… I’d say over all it’s nice to know your way around the studio, and to be proficient at some form of DAW. On this album it payed off because the budget was tight so I could engineer things myself as well as record and edit. The thing that took the longest was me rewriting songs as I went along.
What was the writing process for the CD? Did you already have a backlog of riffs from your recuperation period, or did you start fresh?
Well, being it was a concept album; I had more of a vision for the whole piece, sort of like a movie, where I didn’t really start with riffs… I approached the songs as moods or vibes. So it was starting fresh.
You said you were adamant about having real drums and a full-on production for this release – what else did you have in mind going in?
Well I wanted the drums and bass to stand on their own, so it’s more of a band focus instead of it being strictly a guitar album. I also wanted it to be a little heavier than my previous songs. Not just heavier sonically but composition wise also!
What were your main guitars and amps for the project?
Main guitars were Fujigen FGN guitars. Amp wise it was a little bit of everything… from old modded Marshalls to Boogies, to the Eleven program.
You told me at NAMM you’ve been using the JB for 30 years or so, since the Racer X days – what originally attracted you to it, and what about it has kept you a faithful user all these years?
I like the mids on the JBs. They are also set at a good output level. The reason I’ve stuck with them was they were able to handle all the situations from heavier to mellow.
What other Duncan pickups are you using and what do they contribute to your tone?
I just recently tried the Slash pickups, and were blown away how good they sounded… So that will definitely be my next installation!
Are you any closer to finalizing what the line-up will be for the shows you’re planning to support “The Order of Control”?
I’m doing rehearsals now, and have to say the album translates great live, so definitely watch for shows this coming summer and fall.
What’s next release-wise? I hear vocal tunes in addition to the instrumental music are forthcoming?
Yes, at the moment the new band that features vocals is consuming most of my time. I’m heading into the studio to cut some tracks for it this coming month. Really excited about this one as I’m really pushing forward into new territories effects-wise and songwriting wise! It’s gonna be awesome! I also have a big chunk of the follow-up to “The Order Of Control” already demoed.
Your instructional video from the 80s was quite informative, and I know you’re doing Skype lessons currently. Any plans to do any more formal instructional videos?
I just finished doing an online school for China…. my course is about 60 video lessons in length. This will eventually be offered to other countries as well.
And one question I’m sure Duncan readers are dying to know – what’s it like producing Lemmy?
Ha! Motorhead is the easiest band to record. You push record… they play …Done !!!