Tonight, local up-and-comers Gunpowder Secrets will share the stage with the Viper Room’s current band in residence, Boy Hits Car. Fronted by in-house drink slinger Mo Ruckus, Gunpowder Secrets has been drawing huge crowds since their introduction to The Sunset Strip.
Before channeling your weekend warrior and hitting the Viper for their show, get a crash course on band performance and bar etiquette from The Strip’s newest favorite bartender/musician/philosopher, Mo Ruckus.
What are the secrets of gunpowder?
Gunpowder Secrets is a term for an inner reality that most people choose not to express. Whether out of humility or pride, we all have something that we hide. The best example I can think of is [that] you would never walk up to someone and say, “Hey I’m an alcoholic, I’m broke, I just lost my job, I’m in the middle of a divorce, and I have six toes, etc.” Everyone deals with those types of issues (secrets) at some point in their life. Whether they choose to show it or not, we’ve all got one.
The band has been around for a short time and has already built a significant fan base. What’s the secret to “breaking” the notoriously formidable L.A. market?
Honestly, I think we are still trying to figure it out. But we’ve always tried to show appreciation to the people that come out to our shows. L.A. is a crazy place in the manner that every other person is asking you to come to their art show, or improv show, or screening, or nightclub event. So we understand what it’s like to be almost harassed about coming out to someone’s event.
We’ll spend almost two days contacting everyone through either Facebook or on the phone. But at the same time, we try and approach it from a more personal standpoint. For the people that do make it out, we do our best to show them that it really means something to us that they come out to support. We try to always talk to everyone at the shows and thank them. We also try and give away as much free stuff as possible because everyone loves free stuff.
Having observed dozens of other bands night in and night out at the Viper, what have you learned about live performance? What are the dos and don’ts?
Never be somebody that you’re not.
Never want your performance to be what you’ve seen on TV, or something you’ve seen somebody else do at a show.
You can’t just ask people to come stand at the front of the stage so it seems crowded for your set; that’ll come over time with perfecting your own unique performance and gaining exposure.
Don’t start a chant for your own band that no one knows about; it’s like giving yourself a nickname.
Never ask the bartender to bring you a drink over the microphone.
Be extremely subtle about wanting changes to the sound when on stage.
Always finish your set on a high note, and most importantly, be humble on stage and off.
When not working at the Viper, where’s your favorite spot to hang out on The Sunset Strip?
JD Bender’s house or the Hustler coffee shop. No, but honestly I like to bounce around between all the different venues and bars to try and experience all that The Sunset Strip has to offer.
Can you give us a lesson on appropriate bar etiquette (how to properly order a drink, tipping, etc)? What’s your biggest bartender pet peeve?
The quicker the transaction the better.
You don’t need to lean completely over the counter for me to hear you. Just because you have a drink ticket doesn’t mean you don’t have to tip. People who tip on water go to heaven. Australian accents make me wanna punch babies. And no, Johnny Depp is not here!
Of the numerous other Viper bartenders/musicians, which of your coworkers would you most like to collaborate with?
I honestly respect all of them. I think Joseph [Holiday] of Lady Sinatra would be great to put on a big show with. I think that JD Bender’s band is probably the most rock n’ roll country band in L.A. Jessica Goodwin (Volcano Dolls) and Mikey Speziali (Attic Of Love) are both excellent drummers. Tommy Black (Scott Weiland’s band) and his bass skills are legendary.
We’ll be playing a show in September with Bullets And Octane which is Skye’s (Skye Vaughan-Jayne) band. But if I had to pick one to collaborate with I would have to pick Rita [longtime Viper door hostess Rita Fiora] because she shreds a mean accordion.
Most memorable night/craziest experience at the Viper Room?
I’m still the new guy at Viper even though I’ve been there for almost two years. So my most memorable/craziest nights don’t even compare to the other stories I’ve heard. But I most remember the night that The Smashing Pumpkins played and Billy Corgan stormed off the stage after attempting a ukulele solo. Now that’s rock n’ roll!
Gunpowder Secrets play the Viper Room tonight July 17 along with Boy Hits Car, Atlantis, and Silent Treatment. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. www.viperroom.com
--Brent X Mendoza