Detroit had Motown, Memphis had Stax and Sun Records, Seattle has Sub Pop, and one day Pensacola may be added to the list of cities making major contributions to music history as Raw Panda Records and their dedicated list of artists are creating noteworthy noise along the waters of the Gulf Coast.
A week before the Raw Panda Showcase at The Handlebar, Damien Louviere took time out to answer a few questions for a feature that ran in the “Music Matters” column of the Pensacola News Journal’s November 18th, 2011 edition.
***Damien Louviere Interview***
-You’ve been living full-time in New Orleans for how long now?
DL: Almost three years. Three years in April.
-How has the move influenced your life and your music?
DL: I’ve been coming to New Orleans since I was 15 years old and it always had a homey vibe and the energy was always very good to me and I’ve always loved New Orleans music and the style. When I was here, I really spent time trying to hone in on my craft of writing music, but I kind of developed my own way, not necessarily New Orleans style, but it is influenced by what I was trying to create for myself.
-I used to watch you play years ago and I saw a schedule of yours and literally you were playing almost every night.
DL: Yeah, in Pensacola I was playing almost every night. When I moved here (New Orleans), I really didn’t know anybody, so I had a gig here and there. Now I’m to four, five, six gigs here now, finally. It took awhile. I’m playing with a bunch of different writers and that’s really why I came here; for the original scene. This is what my friend, Sean Peterson my bass player, friend, engineer…He’s running Raw Panda studios which has the bands Paloma, Timberhawk, Two People Playing Music, Precubed, Jim Brown, O’ Pioneers, O’ Pioneers, all that stuff, all of that Raw Panda stuff is coming out of Pensacola. The independent studio that he’s working on right now, we’re about to do a show Friday, which is Raw Panda Presents kind of thing.
-I met Sean back when he worked at Dollarhide’s a long time ago.
DL: Yeah, Sean has been around for many moons. He’s my guru; he’s the one I look up to.
-I have to ask you this. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen you play. What can Pensacola people who haven’t seen you in awhile expect from your performance on Friday at The Handlebar?
DL: We’ve been rehearsing, there’s going to be some stuff off of the “Transect” album, our first album. We’re going to work on a couple of new things, plus a nice cover. The cover I’ve been wanting to do for years, but we never worked it up, but I figured it would be perfect for The Handlebar. So when you see me at The Handlebar, it’s going to be a lot of originals, but one cover and a lot of energy and we’re going to try to play our best.
– You’ve got a band behind you.
DL: You’ve got Brandon (Warren), Sean, and Scott George, my guitar player.
-Will you do any solo stuff or just strictly the band?
DL: This is going to be strictly the band. There is a lot of stuff that I’m writing right now that is solo stuff that we’re going to work on the album, but I figured if we have 30 to 45 minutes to do it, I figured we would just get in there and rock it out and leave. It’s going to be a good show. We’re going to have a good, dynamic show. I’m looking forward to it. Also Aubrey (Nichols) from Timberhawk, that’s what prompted the idea. He’s a part of Raw Panda as well.
-Raw Panda is getting huge.
DL: That’s what I’m saying. Sean has had this idea. We’re trying to get the talent that’s going to fit with what we’re doing. It’s not necessarily a genre. You got your rock n’ roll, you got your rock n’ blues, you got your indie-rock, all over the board. But the thing is, we all have that “thing” in common. There’s something in common with all of us and we all love each other’s stuff. It’s going to be really cool.
-How do you balance family and your art?
DL:That’s a good question. I recently had a baby two months ago.
-Congratulations. He’s adorable.
DL:Thank you. Very adorable; yes he is. It’s very time-consuming. Heather, my fiancée, helps me out by allowing me some time, if I have to sit down and I’ve got an idea. Or if I’m hanging out with my son and he’s sitting there, I’ll just play for him or sit and write something while he’s being good, obviously. So, that’s what I do. I have a lot of work, playing these gigs with these people that…Heather’s pretty much allowed. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. I don’t go out or go see shows or anything like that. If I’m going out, it is because I’m playing. I used to go out mingle and network, but it gets really hard for me to do that now. It seems to work out because I’m still being creative. I wish I had more time, but as of right now, I have a little bit of time to be creative. It’s working out.
-What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a musician starting out?
DL: I’ve had several other musicians tell me…you’re asking for best piece? I have several different things that people have always told me. “Instead of trying to be someone else, be the best you (that) you can be. Be real.” There is always the guitar player that wants to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn, always the drummer that wants to play as many notes as Neil Pert or whatever it is. The best advice that I’ve gotten from some really amazing musicians like my friend Tyler, Renee or any of those people who’ve gone on to do really good things. They’ve said just “Be real.” It’s YOUR fingers that are playing on that guitar. Just because you buy the same equipment does not mean you’re going to play like them. You’re not going to sound like them. You’re not going to have the same ideas. Just try to be yourself and be real. As cliché’ as that is. And “Less is more.” Always.
-If you could write the screenplay for tomorrow and beyond, what would the future hold for you?
DL: That’s a real thought provoking question. I’m kind of on the spot here. I wish I had time to think about this stuff. The future would hold for me to be financial stable enough to go out and fund tours and rehearse and write and be able to spend as much time on the creative process as I possibly can. Because, that in part, would be with my family as well. My gain to happiness would be sitting in a studio, creating and selling music. Making the mailbox money, if you will. Because, I set up for this multimedia company called Audiosocket and they only accept five percent of submissions for music and it’s a multimedia company that goes from ABC, CBS and all that stuff. And you get in their catalog and they pick one of your songs to go on a show or movie, commercial or whatever it is and they send you the check. I really actually want to be one of those writers. I would like to be in a movie, in a part that created that atmosphere for that part in that movie. I’ve always been intrigued by that since I’ve seen “The Wall.” It’s perfect; it’s music, it’s visual, it’s everything you know. I would eventually like to be scoring some movies.
-Speaking of movies. Would you rather have the Academy Award or the highest-grossing film of all time?
DL: I’d probably have to say the Academy Award. Just because it’s the highest grossing doesn’t mean that it’s good. Not to name names, but musically, a lot of people who make a lot of money, doesn’t mean that they’re good. I guess I’d rather be recognized and respected by either my peers and people I looked up to.
-The last question, the Grand Finale; do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
DL: I just love peanuts and I love and (pauses and chuckles) I’m thinking of how to phrase this right before it turns into a big joke on me. I love the texture. Let’s go with that.
***Sean Peterson Q & A November 14, 2011***
-How would you describe Raw Panda Studios and the artists on Raw Panda and what can the audience expect Friday night at The Handlebar?
SP: Let me make the distinction between Raw Panda Studio and Raw Panda Records. They are really independent of one another, other than the name, although most of the bands associated with Raw Panda Records have recorded here.
The name was the brainchild of Aaron Finlay and Gio Lugo of Paloma, an old inside joke apparently and its stuck as a name. The ‘label’, so to speak, is really what I would call and artist collective. Using social media, e-commerce, and DIY recording techniques, we hope to do our own thing and be able to make our creative output available to whoever might find it enjoyable.
The collective is defined more by friendship and respect than musical dogma of any sort, with honesty and intention being the common thread that runs through. That being said, the show Friday night will feature Big Jim Brown, Chainsaw Kelly and Aubrey Nichols, three songwriters that explore American song styles like blues, country, hill music, r&b and rock and roll. Of course, Damien Louviere will be there as well.
Damien bridges the gap in a lot of ways between more traditional song forms and indie-rock and post-rock. I truly believe Raw Panda has some amazing musicians and songwriters among its ranks and Friday, four of my favorite singers and lyricists will be there. Can’t wait.
-Michael L. Smith