4 questions with Gene the Werewolf on its 10th anniversary
When Gene the Werewolf formed a decade ago, the band was going against any and all trends of the day. An over-the-top hard rock band with a leisure suit-wearing frontman — lead singer Jon Belan's Gene persona — might have seemed anachronistic at best, a parody at worst.
But 10 years later, Gene the Werewolf is thriving. Featuring Belan and drummer Nick Revak from Belle Vernon, Penn-Trafford grads Drew Donegan (guitar) and Aaron Mediate (keyboards), and bassist Tim Schultz from Mt. Lebanon, the band is celebrating its decade together with the release of a new single, “Keep It Together.”
Belan and Donegan answered a few questions in advance of a performance March 7 at 105.9 Studio X in Green Tree, which will be recorded in front of an intimate live audience of 30 for future rebroadcast. For a chance to attend, go to 1059thex.iheart.com/contests/372634/.
Question: When you started with Gene 10 years ago, what were your expectations? Did you think you'd be playing for a decade?
Belan: It's crazy, because when Gene first started, our main goal was to release an album, hopefully get a single on the radio and find a label to put out our music internationally. Three albums later, we have had two singles on 102.5 WDVE-FM and 3 singles on 103.1 WKVE-FM and got signed to European label Frontiers Records and Japanese label Marquee/Avalon Records, who both released our album internationally.
Donegan: We had (rather) lofty goals upon starting this group. Just like anyone starting a band, I believe that we felt like we were going to be the biggest band in the world. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way. That said, we were able to garner a lot of attention locally with the help of 102.5 WDVE. That radio play was the catalyst for a lot of great opportunities for us, be it outstanding shows, record deals or even just general exposure. So, even though I probably don't think we expected to be a band this long, all of the aforementioned activities made the project fun enough to keep everyone engaged and interested. Now the band is more fun than it's ever been, primarily because we do whatever we want, without pressure from anyone.
Q: Hard rock was waning when you launched the band. Are you surprised at the reception you've received?
Belan: We always like to joke around by saying that “we're the last of our kind.” … However, we write the music we do because that's what “comes out” when we practice, and not because we try to write a certain way. We're sincere, and I believe that is truly our most notable feature. We have been fortunate in many ways.
Donegan: The waning interest in rock music over the past 10 years definitely played a role in our reception. Mostly in a negative way, at least in terms of exploding into rock 'n' roll's next big thing, but it also opened our eyes to this underground rock scene full of music lovers from the '70s to present day that celebrate our style of music in a very passionate way. I was always amazed to find folks all over the world discussing our band on message boards and podcasts. I think we were able to gain their attention by not only being a quality band, but by playing a style of music that most new bands would never dream of doing.
Q: What are some of the highlights so far?
Belan: Our biggest thrill is getting to share the stage with many of the artists we grew up admiring! Some of the memorable highlights have been opening for Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Steel Panther, Eddie Money, Winger and so many more!
Donegan: There's been a lot of great memories thus far. My personal favorite was when we supported The Darkness (a band that we really respect and admire) (and they) starting completely freaking out during our sound check. Justin Hawkins and his brother Dan basically walked on stage after our soundcheck and started to profusely compliment us by saying how much we blew their minds and asking us questions about the band's background.
Q: The best thing about being in Gene the Werewolf is ... ?
Belan: I think that I can speak for everybody when I say it's our close-knit friendship. We have all known each other since we were young 20-somethings. Ten years, three marriages and two kids later, we are still lucky enough to be on stage with each other as ‘old men' doing what we love! Who gets to do that? (OK, we are not really that old).
Donegan: I love the guys in this band and it's cool to see everyone grow into these different places in life. We were joking the other morning at rehearsal that we used to talk about how hard we partied the night before we got together and now everyone is asking each other about their wives and kids. It's been a cool evolution.
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.