Interview with The Handsome Dogs guitarist Pete Potens

INTERVIEW WITH THE HANDSOME DOGS GUITARIST PETE POTENS
Date: October 3, 2018
Interviewer: Olivier

A FEW MONTHS AGO, THE HANDSOME DOGS RELEASED THEIR VERY IMPRESSIVE DEBUT ALBUM ‘UNLEASHED.’ ALTHOUGH THE GERMAN BASED, NO FRILLS, HARD ROCKING BAND MAY BE A NEW ONE, THE BAND MEMBERS ARE SEASONED PLAYERS INCLUDING GUITARIST PETE POTENS WHO AUDITIONED FOR THE ONE AND ONLY RONNIE JAMES DIO BACK IN 1992 AND SEEMINGLY ALMOST GOT THE GIG. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH POTENS TO FIND OUT A LOT MORE ABOUT THE HANDSOME DOGS AND OF COURSE POTENS’ AUDITION WITH RONNIE JAMES DIO.

Sleaze Roxx: How did you guys come up with the band name The Handsome Dogs?

Pete Potens: We were thinking about a name. We started out as a covers band and since we are all owners of dogs — we are all dog fans so to speak — my guitar player Lemmes came up with the idea of The Handsome Dogs. So we are The Handsome Dogs [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! How did the band get started?

Pete Potens: Well, we all knew each other from a very young age and we all played in different bands but never had a chance to get together as a band. So about two years ago, the drummer and the other guitar player asked me if I wanted to join. Funny thing is that we all knew each other but had never played together in a band. We started out basically as a covers band. You know what I mean? We started out playing songs from the bands that we liked. We did not have our own material. That went really well with the covers and at what point, we said, “Well, let’s just write our own music. Let’s just start.” And it went like that and all of a sudden, we had like ten, twelve songs together that we played live. So we decided, “Well, let’s put that stuff on a CD.” That’s how it happened.

Sleaze Roxx: You guys ended up releasing a few videos — or lyric videos — before putting out an album. Why did you end up doing that?

Pete Potens: Well, that’s very easy. Since we were very aware of how the music business is going these days, with all the downloads and you know the kids — not only the kids but everybody like listening to music on YouTube, downloads and stuff, we thought it’s not a problem to release a few songs off the album. We released them on YouTube. I’m going to be really up front with you. Being aware that a hard rock band nowadays, especially with the music we play, you’re not going to be millionaires by selling five million CDs and stuff.

Sleaze Roxx: Sure.

Pete Potens: So [laughs], we said, “Why don’t we put the songs out on YouTube before the album is out so that people can at least hear us. Maybe they’ll know one song or the other, and when we have the CD, who wants the CD will buy it, you know what I mean? If they don’t want to buy it, at least people know the songs and they can come out to the concerts. That was our intention in doing the videos. We could have basically released all the songs off the CD as videos but we thought, “Well, maybe [we’ll keep] just a little surprise for the rest.”

Sleaze Roxx: Actually, The Cruel Intentions — I don’t know if you know that band — they did the same thing as well.

Pete Potens: Yes. I know a lot of other bands that do. We’re not talking about money. You know, you know that. You hear of a band that releases an album and two weeks later, the album has been downloaded, not downloaded but you can hear the whole album on YouTube. You know, so if you want to earn a little bit with music in our ballpark. you got to play, play, play live shows and stuff. You know, it’s not like Michael Jackson and such where you are selling millions of CDs. You got to go out and work and you might as well put your stuff out for free [laughs]. If they are true fans that we have and I am really glad about that, they are going to buy the CD regardless of whether it’s available on the internet or not.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s true.

Pete Potens: It’s actually been a great experience and very valuable to know that our hardcore fans like this will still be buying your stuff even though it’s available for free.

Sleaze Roxx: I saw that you guys won a contest called ‘Classic Rock Radio Future Rock Awards.’ Can you tell me about that?

Pete Potens: Correct. Yes, there is one big radio station here called ‘Classic Rock Radio.’ Every year, they put out a contest where you can apply with your music so we thought, “Why not? Let’s join.” The funny thing is it’s a so called “newcomer” contest and none of us are young and new [laughs]. We thought let’s just do it anyways. Lucky for us, we won the contest and the prize every year is 1,000 Euros.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool!

Pete Potens: The radio station called me and told me we’d won the contest. They asked me, ‘What are you going to do with the money?” We decided to donate the money to a local animal shelter.

Sleaze Roxx: Nice!

Pete Potens: And yeah, we thought, “What are we going to do [each] with 200 Euros in our pocket?” We’re not doing drugs. We’re not drinking [laughs]. That’s all in the past so we just donated the money to the shelter. That was a great thing.

The Handsome Dogs‘ “Hunt Or Be Hunted” song:

The Handsome Dogs – Hunt or be hunted

New song by The Handsome Dogs “Hunt or be hunted” from the album “UNLEASHED” to be released in July 2018. Music by The Handsome Dogs, Lyrics by Lars Lunova. Special thanks to Vojin Ratkovic for drums&percussion. Recorded by Pete Potens @Dungeon Studios, Germany. Mastering by Ivan Ilic.

Sleaze Roxx: How does the songwriting work for The Handsome Dogs? Whose responsible for most of the songwriting?

Pete Potens: Well basically, it’s me and my other guitar player Lemmes who write most of the stuff. I have my own studio at the house so I basically come up with ideas, record them and then present it to the guys and then we work it out together. Everyone else is coming up with their own ideas after that so it’s not like I am completely by myself. Once a song is played, it’s worked out together during rehearsals. After I present my idea or the other guitar player Lemmes does, we work it out together basically.

Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the new album, how did you come up with the album title ‘Unleashed’?

Pete Potens: Very easy. Very simple. I’m honest. ‘Unleashed’ is related to dogs and leashes so we’re like the dogs off the leash, unleashed. Plus I admit that Judas Priest once had a live album called ‘Unleashed In The East.’

Sleaze Roxx: Yes.

Pete Potens: And Dokken once had a song called ‘Unchain [The Night].’ That’s a great title. So it’s definitely a combination of the titles and dogs.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s refreshing to have someone admit that they are copying a little bit as well.

Pete Potens: Yes. Right.

Sleaze Roxx: Now that I look at your song titles again, I see that there are some references to animals as well. So can you tell me how many dogs are related to dogs on the new album?

Pete Potens: As a matter of fact, when we started writing songs, we were thinking of doing a sot of concept album. So basically every song was supposed to have something about animals — dogs or cats or so. When the whole thing started to take shape, we thought about it and thought, ‘Nah. Maybe it’s not…” I don’t know the right word. We thought that it might be a little silly to do it.  So basically, there’s only one, two or three songs left somewhat related to animals. As a matter of fact, “Treat Me Like A Dog” does not have to do with treat me like a dog but rather my other guitar player’s break up with his girlfriend. He was in really bad shape and was treated like a dog.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That was definitely a good idea. That was good call [to drop the concept album] [laughs]!

Pete Potens: [Laughs] We were thinking of ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ or something.

The Handsome Dogs‘ “Treat Me Like A Dog” song:

THE HANDSOME DOGS – Treat me like a dog

“Treat me like a dog”, first single by German Rockers The Handsome Dogs. Full album release in 2017. Porty Portner–Vocals; Pete Potens–Guitars, Lemmes–Guitars, Vocals; Lars Lunova: Drums, Vocals. All songs written and produced by The Handsome Dogs, 2017. copyright©THD Music 2017

Sleaze Roxx: What are your favourite songs off the album?

Pete Potens: Ooooh! I am sure you hear this a lot but that’s a tough one! My favorite songs…. Let me see. Usually, a guitar player would say, “Well, it must be one of the ones that I have written.” But my favorite song on the album, my two favorites… No, my favorite song on the album is “Waiting.” My second favorite would be “Gold” especially since I think it’s a very monumental song plus Pontus Snibb of Bonafide did guest vocals on that one and that was a great experience. We had a lot of fun. And my third favorite would be “Treat Me Like A Dog” as that was the first song that I have written for the band. The first song that we ever had was that song.

The Handsome Dogs‘ “Waiting” song:

The Handsome Dogs – “The Waiting”

New song “The Waiting” from the upcoming album “GOLD”. Written and produced by THE HANDSOME DOGS: Porty Portner, Pete Potens, Lemmes, Lars Lunova. Recorded and Mastered by Pete Potens and Daniel Keller at Dungeon Studios and Sureshot Studios, Germany, 2017.

The Handsome Dogs‘ “Gold” (featuring Pontus Snibb of Bonafide) song:

The Handsome Dogs – Gold (feat. Pontus Snibb/Bonafide)

“Gold” by The Handsome Dogs. ©2018 All rights reserved Porty Portner: Lead Vocals, Pete Potens: Guitars,Vocals Lemmes: Guitars, Vocals Jens Münster: Bass, Vocals Written, recorded and produced by Pete Potens @Dungeon Studios and The Handsome Dogs, Germany. Lyrics by Lars Lunova and The Handsome Dogs Mixing and Mastering by Ivan Ilic@ Cililab Studios, USA and Serbia.

Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of Pontus, how did you get him to do guest vocals on the album?

Pete Potens: Pontus is the singer in Bonafide and my singer, Porty, he’s in an AC/DC c0ver band. That’s very common in Europe, al these cover bands. I don’t know about Canada. I would guess a lot there too.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, there are.

Pete Potens: So anyways, they used to play overseas a lot and they met Pontus of Bonafide in Sweden. They have been friends for a while and he said, “Why don’t you come over to Germany and sing guest vocals on one of our songs?” And he said, “Great. Let’s do it.” Great guy. We went over to Sweden to play on a ship and met up with him again there.

Sleaze Roxx: So what are the plans for The Handsome Dogs? You’ve just released your first album. What are your plans going forward?

Pete Potens: OK. We are right in the process of writing more songs. As I said before, we started as a covers band and right now, we have about 16 songs. We want to write five or six more so we can do a full-length show. So far, out setlist only gives us about one hour and that’s OK if you’re opening for someone but in Germany, if you do a headline show, you need at least one hour and a half to two hours of program. So our priority right now is to write five or six more songs so we can play two hours through. In the meantime, we take whatever we can get [laughs]. It’s really hard for bands like us in Germany, I must tell you Olivier. Germany is very big with heavy metal let’s say and also the symphonic and what do you call it? Epica, Nightwish and stuff like that.

Sleaze Roxx: I don’t know what to call them either since I don’t listen to them [laughs].

Pete Potens: Symphonic metal type stuff. It’s really huge in Germany singing about historical things. These guys are all in black with make-up and stuff like that. That’s just huge in Germany and we’re just not like that. Since we are more like hard rock n’ roll, even though the new material is going to be a little heavier than the old stuff, but it’s not easy for us to get gigs. And I have to tell you, we don’t have a manager so we have to do our own management. I don’t know if you want to include that or not. I am just telling you. Basically, we all have day jobs and we have to mind our day jobs and use our spare time to put everything together. Is we are looking for management right now and somebody that can take care of this stuff so we have more time to focus on writing music and stuff like that.

Sleaze Roxx: I think that a lot of bands are in the same boat so that’s not a big secret.

Pete Potens: I know a lot of guys that live just playing music but they are playing in four or five bands, you know? So basically, all of us are still working 8 to 5 and the rest of our lives is family and music. And dogs of course [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: Of course [laughs]! That’s funny. Are you guys going to be releasing any more videos?

Pete Potens: Yes. Right now, I am talking to a guy that we met and he’s a videographer, cinematographer type thing. I don’t know which song that we are going to do it [for] but we are certainly going to release a video for one of the songs off the CD. The videos that we released aren’t really professionally done. We just did them ourselves. This time, we want to take one song and do it professionally. Like I said, our priority is writing more songs, getting our setlist expanded so we have a program for a full show of our own. Also, trying to get some management too. Trying to apply for Wacken next year. I think that’s the goal of every band around so we’ll see. It’s a lot of work. Before that, we need some professional management. It doesn’t matter about your material, how good you are, if I say, “Hi. It’s Pete. I want to play at Wacken with my band.” They are going to say, “OK, bye.”

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Is there anything else that you want to add?

Pete Potens: Let me think. Well, first of all, I want to thank you for the interview.I am having a great time.

Sleaze Roxx: Me too.

Pete Potens: From the bottom of my heart, honestly. Well, what can I add? I was going to say a whole bunch of things but it’s typical. Once you’re on the phone, you don’t remember anything!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Pete Potens: For the end, an interesting thing. I’ve been living in the United States [of America] for 20 years.

Sleaze Roxx: Oh wow!

Pete Potens: I moved here a long time ago to do music. Played with a lot of bands on stage. I don’t know if you want to include it and I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but I auditioned for Ronnie James Dio.

Sleaze Roxx: Really?

Pete Potens: Honestly, I did. I swear to God. Yeah. It didn’t work out because I did not have a green card but I didn’t tell them up front [laughs].

Pete Potens in New York City in 1991

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Pete Potens: They say, “Do you have papers?” I said, “No. I thought you were going to get me some [laughs].”

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Pete Potens: It was a great time and I regret. It was ’92. It was right before Tracy G had joined the band and right after Craig Goldy had left. I sent my tape there — a cassette with my music. They called me up and said, “You have to be there at 3 pm for rehearsals.” I was shit nervous but I could play all the Dio stuff. It was a great rehearsal but without a work permit, I couldn’t join.  It’s a cool story but unfortunately back then, there was no cellphones.

Sleaze Roxx: So did they actually offer you the gig and then you told them that you did not have the papers?

Pete Potens: No. We played like five songs. It was when Jimmy Bain was still alive. I am really honoured to have met him too and they said afterwards when I talked to them…. They said, they asked me, “How are you here in the United States? Do you have a work permit? Are you a dual citizen and stuff?” And I told them, “Well, as a matter of fact, I am here. I am here on a visitor’s visa. So I have no work permit whatsoever.” And they said, “Well, that’s kind of tough.” About two weeks later, they called me and said, “Sorry. Because of the situation, sorry. We couldn’t get you the gig.”

Sleaze Roxx: That’s too bad.

Pete Potens: I’m honest enough to myself to say “It’s not that I didn’t play good enough.” Everything went well and I thought they would have just said, “Well, hey, we just took another guy.” But when they cancelled the thing, when they told me that I’m not joining, they told me the thing about the work permit too.

Sleaze Roxx: Well, that’s a very cool story.

Pete Potens: Jimmy Bain and Ronnie James Dio are not alive anymore so even more, I regret that I did not have a phone back them. I didn’t have a camera or a tape recorder to record this. The only witness to this situation was my brother who was on vacation at the time and he went with me to the rehearsal. So my brother was like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe this! You’re playing with Ronnie James Dio!: Anyways, always a great tale to tell [laughs].

The Handsome Dogs‘ “Gonna Be There” song:

The Handsome Dogs – Gonna be there (2017)

“Gonna be there”- new song by THE HANDSOME DOGS, from the upcoming album “GOLD”. Porty Portner:Vocals Pete Potens:Guitars Lemmes:Guitars, Vocals Jens Münster:Bass, Vocals Lars Lunova.Drums, Vocals https://www.facebook.com/dogshandsome