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Like a Bat Out Of Islington – Interview with GIO \ deVience lead singer Giovanni Spano

Interview & Photos by Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Gio is, to put it simply, ambitious. The energetic front man who along with Donnie, Olli, Benno and Jim have played as deVience for the last few years are about to enter the next stage of their career. On the back of Gio’s time in Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical, playing Ledoux and a successful stint in 2018’s X-Factor, the band’s profile couldn’t be higher.

We sat down with Gio in the dressing room at Islington’s O2 Academy to understand what next for him and the rest of the band.

Now a starting point for any interview is research and of course Google is your friend and one world wide search later, we some across an interesting snippet. Giovanni Spano is famous…. he also died in 1878…..

GS: Absolutely bizarre. Absolutely bizarre. I’ve Googled myself a couple of times. As you do. Yeah. The archaeologist comes up. Giovanni Spano, the archaeologist. Hopefully… I’m digging out some good music for you guys anyway….. [collective yet wholly acceptable ‘groan’]

AH: One of the things highlighted that he was known for was being multi-lingual. You don’t have a name like yours without being able to speak more than one language surely?

GS: Well, I am semi bilingual right now. I’m sort of doing well with my Italian. I’ve been learning over the years. So, yeah. My Dad, he never spoke to us in Italian which is really funny because it’s obviously his mother tongue. He never spoke to us in Italian but I just embraced their culture over the years. We started visiting, supporting a football team over there, and enjoying some of the Italian singers as well. I get by. I’m absolutely.. I’m good. Yeah.

AH: Presumably, as is often the case, you’ve got that huge extended family out there?

GS: Massive. Down in the south of Italy in Reggio Calabria which is a poor part of Italy and I’ve got loads of family, loads of cousins, loads of aunties and uncles, great aunties and uncles and what not. Immediate family are here you know, my grandparents and stuff like that they moved over here post-war, or was it ’44 or something like that. Yeah, they came over to work the land etc.. and yeah we just grown up here ever since and it’s been amazing.

AH: The weeks leading up to the show have included quite a trawl through your old material. Stage wise, you were part of the live touring show for Jesus Christ Superstar long before you did Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical? JCSS is quite trippy, breaking into jazz and prog rock at times. Not what you expect from your typical musical?

GS: It was a little bit trippy and I’m sure there was acid fueled evening or two between the writers [Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice]

AH: Your character is very noticeable on stage. The shaved ‘A’ on the side of your head indicating……. what?

GS: Anarchist basically yeah. The hell-raiser as it were. Everything that I did I went in 110%, I threw myself in even without thinking about the consequences, that was my particular role. I spoke to the Director and he said to me “Imagine yourself walking into the Houses of Parliament”, excuse me if I say this, “with a bomb strapped onto your chest! As if you’re Guy Fawkes and that’s how far you would go for Jesus Christ.”

It was quite extreme and it was quite nice to actually go there to push yourself to that limit and do that every single day. Some people would talk to me backstage but until I had done my number, I was down on my knees, listening to the whole of the show and fueling and building this aggression and this you know angst and desire to want to see Christ where he belongs, where I thought he belongs.

I would then go on stage and then go bang. You know that was great, it was really fun. Nathan James came to see it and then we did a show together shortly afterwards and he was just like “Dude you are just like a stand-up figure for me.” It meant a lot.

AH: You certainly push yourself and your voice when performing. You mentioned a piece about giving everything as that person in role of the show. You’ve got a track on the album ‘Go Hard or Go Home’, because that sums up the same approach.

GS: Yeah, exactly that and that’s sort of my analogy in life. That’s why we postponed the gig [December 2018] because I was ill and I couldn’t do a performance that I wanted to do. As you say it is go hard or go home and I give everything in every single performance that I do. I love doing what I do, I love seeing the audience’s face and you know that just drives me to be more passionate about what I do and I just love it every single night you know, getting out there, singing my own music and doing what I do best and that’s being a showman.

People clapping along singing the songs it’s just sick like, you know, you can understand why the likes of Axl Rose, Gene Simmons and people like that are so passionate about it, it’s phenomenal. Mick Jagger is a legend as well you know, Robert Plant, an unbelievable showman as far as I’m concerned.

AH: If you aspire to be any of them, they are the characters you want to go for aren’t they?

GS: Yeah, absolutely you know Freddie [Mercury] you know something exciting.

AH: The show is as much part of the performance as the voice isn’t it?

GS: Absolutely. Yeah if not more exactly. You know you hear him [Freddie] on his record he is very different when he is performing live but I tell you what, they really aren’t watching one other person on that stage when he’s there.

AH: Electrifying.

GS: 80,000 people just like that in the palm of your hand. So good luck.

AH: You also took ill during the final performance of Bat at the Dominion. That must have been a real blow for you?

GS: You know what I had the absolute pleasure of doing the show and like conceiving it from the very beginning, that part was my part you know I made it, it’ll forever be my character and will forever be a part of me.

I think when I came away from it for such a long time and such an appreciation and admiration and love for the show, it was kind of like I started a brand new chapter doing the X-Factor and sort of that chapter just needed to keep going and going.

Yes, I was not going to be able to finish the show the way that I would’ve liked to but that’s the exact reason why I didn’t do it. It wouldn’t have been good enough and you know as I said I was suffering for a very long time and you know it’s better I left it the way that I left it, having enjoyed it and having enjoyed my last performance than trying to go out there and do something really bad and then kicking myself in the teeth for not being able to really finish it.

AH: That’s good I like that. You mentioned in terms of the sort of artist you could aspire to be you threw Axl in there as well. Listening to the album your vocal range and your style fits that real L.A hard rock sound doesn’t it? It oozes the sleaze and swagger that typifies that sound and scene. 

GS: I love sex in music I think it’s absolutely beautiful, but I don’t just mean I’m not talking about crude sex, I’m talking about when you can feel it in your body you can feel it coursing through your veins and I find that the writing that we’ve done especially on the 2016 album, I find it, you can just feel it all over your body and it makes you want to do something and I think that’s the best thing about music it makes you want to feel something.

I think every single song on the album makes you want to do something, you know whether it’d be you know going to hug someone, giving a kiss, whether it’s headbanging as hard as possibly you can or whether it’s a hip thrust. And that’s what I love about it, you know, a couple of people compare me to Axl and like Myles [Kennedy] and Dio but I love what I do and I can’t wait for the new music to come out. I think it’s going to be absolutely amazing, some of the stuff we’ve written is incredible. So yeah we’re just working on it at the moment.

AH: Obviously now is a good time to capitalize on everything that you’ve managed to do in the last 12 months.

GS: I think so yeah. We’ve got this platform, we’ve been given the voice that we’ve been given and had been gifted as it were, we’re now just going to take it to the next level and go to where rock and roll rightly deserves to be in this country and that’s out there with everybody. You know we’ve got 8 year olds coming to the show tonight which is unheard of in hard rock.

AH: And it’s them that you want to catch as well before they get tainted by that fabricated music, they’ll be listening to that, it’s gonna be there.

GS: Of course and you know I walk down the street now and I’ve got kids smiling at me and I’m like “Why are you smiling at me?” And it clicks and you realise they like rock and roll music and it makes me the happiest man alive. It takes you back to the days when The Beatles were around and everybody listened to it, everyone could listen to it. That’s what I think rock music should be it should be a trademark for the UK. It’s where it was born.

AH: Look at the history music through the years.

GS: Exactly and I think it’s only right that it has prominence and it has it’s place within the mainstream charts, it should be in the commercial chart as far as I’m concerned.

AH: When are we expecting something new?

GS: The plan is to do like a little e.p. maybe like a double A side or something like that at Easter and then we’ll get an album out in summer and then in the 4th quarter you might have something else written for the beginning of January 2020. So it’s gonna be busy because obviously we’re gonna do the festivals and stuff, we’ve got a few festivals booked over this summer which is going to be pretty fine.

AH: You played the Isle of Wight festival previously?

GS: Yeah and we’ve also got booked again which is absolutely amazing but maybe I shouldn’t have just said that but yeah we’ve got it. Download is also that weekend as well so we’re going to see what’s going on and see what we can manage.

AH: Saturday at one and Sunday at the other?

GS: Exactly that’s it. You know we’re gonna have a sit down and have a strategy meeting this week, my entire team met my band last week so yeah it’s just sort of getting everything in place now because I want to be nice and organized because there’s other events that come off the back of the X-Factor that you have to be involved in as well.

AH: The lads have clearly been very supportive whilst you were out spreading the word?

GS: Amazing. You know they’ve been absolutely phenomenal since day 1 and every single week in the live studio when we were filming the shows at the X-Factor the boys were there supporting me and then we’d go and do maybe a little jam or whatever. During the first 2 weeks of being in the X-Factor house I couldn’t tell anybody that I was there etc, we were still gigging. We had all our fans at the gigs and they were like “Oh, you’ve just been on judges houses.” You know so it’s been a wild ride but they’ve been incredibly supportive as well as my family and you know now I’ve got new management and staff and just a whole massive team now. It’s phenomenal.

AH: I would imagine you don’t necessarily realize what they can do for you until you have them working with you?

GS: I’ll be honest, I mean there’s only so much that one person can do and before you start spreading yourself too thinly and when you’ve got a musical to do 8 times a week and trying to do the band stuff or even something simple like trying to buy a hat, you know just live. You know it’s the grind, I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I think it makes me appreciate nights like this more than anything in the world because you know all that work, all that hard work that you do and the sleepless nights and nights where you are bitching to your girlfriend about how fucking hard it is. You get to nights like this and you just go “Ahhhh, that’s why.” because it’s awesome and there’s no greater feeling than actually being out there and singing your own songs and seeing people smile because of that reason because you’re singing your own songs, I mean I am getting paid to do that. It’s amazing it’s just amazing.

AH: Staying involved must keep you grounded though. It stops you going off on an “I’m the front-man” trip?

GS: I’m a go-getter, I’m a laborer, I’m the same as my Dad you know. You know his parents were immigrants to this country and obviously now you know, we’re British citizens or whatever, but he’s a hard worker and he’s my hero.

AH: And imparted the right information and upbringing too.

GS: Absolutely just a hard worker and just want to do this more than anything in the world and I think now I’ve got the opportunity to do it and it’s only right that I do it and I do it right and I give the respect it deserves.

AH: You mentioned ‘brand’. Now, this could’ve been billed 3 different ways couldn’t it? What’s the band name going to be going forward?

GS: GIO.

AH: just GIO?

GS: Yeah. That’s it. Spoken to my boys, to my team and spoken to everybody, family etc.and that’s it going forward and that’s an exclusive that you’ve just got.

AH: Are you gonna miss the name deVience? Because it’s a cool name for a band.

GS: It’s amazing because everything that it stands for and it’s always in my heart, it’s always going to be there because deVience actually became more than just a name of the band it actually became what we were about. You know people look at you as a human being and think “They’ll never amount to anything.” And then when you smashed that down and say “Hey, here I am and this is what I’ve achieved over life and these are the goals that I will always achieve and I will always go to improve and better myself and stay passionate and driven.” That’s what I insist and that’s what we’re doing and we just done it over the last year. We’ve done things that bands wouldn’t do and hard rock bands like ours wouldn’t play the Isle of Wight festival, we did it.

GS: You know we’ve not been around that long. We’ve been playing music since 2010 but deVience and the sound that we have and the identity that we have as a group has not been around that long. So we really found it and I think we’re there now, I think we’ve got our makeup and we’re very excited about what’s ahead. The future holds some amazing things.

AH: The X-Factor fans that are gonna be coming to the show tonight have possibly only seen you do that, this is going to be a surprise for them.

GS: It’s gonna be absolutely brilliant because if someone is going to sing those songs and have a really good time to those songs they’ll get to see the proper side of me as well and not that I didn’t show it on the program, but it’s just gonna be so much and they’re going to realize how much fun rock music is. You know these people that maybe saw just the sugary bubble gum pop get to see this side of me and get to see how much fun it is.

AH: From big show songs on the X-Factor and you’re performing some of the same tonight people are also going to hear memorable original songs. Everything has a hook for the listener.

GS: That’s what I’ve always wanted to do anyways just write good anthemic songs you know. Something people can sing along to, people can dance to, people can clap to and just have a good time. Remember me, remember the songs, remember the band, remember the night, remember the moment. You know ’86 live Wembley. Freddie Mercury, Queen 80,000 people no one will ever forget it. So hopefully, eventually, I can aspire to be at that level, in fact we’re not gonna aspire we’re gonna get there. Just got to work hard.

AH: Put in for the opening spotter to Bon Jovi’s Wembley show or something like that.

GS: Exactly that it’s already been mentioned.

AH: You’re a good fit.

GS: A perfect fit because we’re a little bit harder as well, so that it is not exactly the same, do you know what I mean?

AH: And aging gracefully.

GS: Yeah, dude he looks great. I think he’s hot.

AH: Well I know my wife does and I could explain more about her feelings for Jon but we’re out of time…. Gio, thank you very much !

GIO are
Giovanni Spano – Vocals : Donnie Roulstone – Guitars : Jim O’Connor – Guitars : Ben Porter – Bass : Olli Carter – Drums

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