Interview with Dante Gizzi – Adrian Hextall (Writer /Photographer / Contributer MyGlobalMind Webzine)
Scottish rockers GUN are still putting in a hard day’s work and are, once again, ‘Taking on the World‘. Thanks primarily to fan pressure who never let the band disappear and hounded them for many years to reform. The Gizzi brothers, Dante and Jools are the sole remaining members that took the band to the top of the charts on many occasions in the 1990s. With a brief tenure that saw Little Angels’ Toby Jepson fronting the band, Jools remains on guitar but Dante has ‘dropped the bass’ and stepped up to the plate by taking on Mark Rankin’s role as lead singer.
Prior to taking the stage at Proud, Camden as part of Camden Rocks Festival 2015, Dante spoke to Adrian Hextall about all things Past & Present.
MGM: Tell us a little bit about where you guys are right now. This feels almost like a full second career for you. Having done a couple of charity shows initially, then getting Toby (Jepson) in, that didn’t seem to quite give what you wanted?
DG: He [Toby] gave us the impetus to kind of carry on the Gun brand. I think it was because it’s a love of music. First and foremost, it’s the love of music, and obviously, without sounding a bit clichéd, some of these songs that you just can’t can’t stop playing, you still love, you still– you hold it dear to your heart. You know, when you still want to let people hear it? Maybe not even just the old fans and audience. Even reaching out to your newer audience. It’s perfect.
But yeah, obviously then, coupled with that, you start thinking about doing some new material. So we brought out ‘Break the Silence’ in 2012, I think it was. It’s a different line-up, and obviously with me taking over vocals.
MGM: Was that a tough call for you?
DG: Yeah. Yeah, it was, because obviously you’ve got to get it right. You’re taking over from Mark, the original singer. That’s a scary prospect. No matter– you’ve seen it happen a million times over, with Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth. It’s always a daunting prospect because you’re always going to be compared to– it’s just a natural thing– that first album. I think what we’ve done with the new album is set in the ball rolling for me just to be more confident, more comfortable, especially after having released ‘Break the Silence’.
MGM: I was going to say, you’ve got the first one [‘Break the Silence’] out of the way now.
DG: Yeah, that totally relaxes you. And then obviously you go through that stage where the fans are like, “No, it’s not as good as Mark,” etc, etc..” I think it’s obviously just a need now to make people understand that this is my love. I was there from day one as well. I sang half these these songs. I wrote half these songs. So I’m passionate about it. I think fans are now beginning to see that. It’s been really good with the new album. Great response, great reviews. played pretty much sold-out concerts. Obviously starting from scratch again in a way, but I think it’s making people aware – social media, Twitter, Facebook, all these things. Such a great help in reminding people that Gun are still here.
MGM: Well, you’re less reliant on things like radio play and the charts these days, aren’t you, because you’ve got your old fan base is sitting there, as you say, on social media as well. And they’re spreading the word on your behalf.
DG: And do you know what it is? On a day-to-day basis I’m still seeing posts from people on Facebook saying, “God, I didn’t know you were still together.” And I’m still seeing that constantly. It’s like, “Loving the new stuff”, and “Love the old stuff.” There’s a lot of people out there that still don’t know that Gun are coming back, in a way.
MGM: And established now, I would say, as well, especially with a second album just out?
DG: ‘Frantic’? Yeah. Well, we recorded it in a few places, actually. We recorded it in Sarm Studios down here [London]. We did three or four songs in Sarm Studios. We went over to ICP in Belgium, which is an incredible studio. That was unbelievable. I’ve never seen so much really, really well-kept gear from the 70s – old Moogs and stuff.
MGM: Does it give you that really warm sound that’s almost missing these days with the digital world?
DG: Totally. It’s absolutely– I was singing through a microphone that was– it was a German mic– they used it in all the big rallies before the war. It still had the swastika on it. It was unbelievable. At first it was like, “This is a bit uncomfortable,” because you’re look at it and you’re singing through it, but what a warm sound and incredible vocals, and it was made I think around 1934 / 35. Everything’s so well-kept at ICP. There’s an engineer on hand 24/7 as well.
MGM: So everything’s got to be switched on for you before you’re ready so it can all warm up?
DG: Totally, but it’s a brilliant set up. And then Sarm, obviously Sarm’s world renowned. Led Zeppelin IV was recorded there. Parts of Bohemian Rhapsody were recorded there. That’s kind of a daunting thing, and I like that challenge. You’ve got to live up to expectations of other bands that’ve sold an incredible amount of albums having recorded there. It’s a wee bit of pressure on you.
We did some recording up in Glasgow at Gorbals Sound as well. We finished off the tail end of the album there. But yeah, it’s like a year-and-a-half process getting the right songs, I think. Apparently one of the things that’s difficult is finding the right balance of rock and pop. To be honest, Jools and I are kind of the opinion still that Gun were never an out-and-out rock band, and it never will be.
MGM: That would be one of the reasons why you did so well in the charts first time around, wouldn’t it? Because you appealed to such a broad spectrum of people.
DG: Don’t get me wrong. When you come see Gun live, fucking totally different ballgame. Tonight we have a 45-minute set. You can see for yourself it’s different– I’m looking forward to it. We played last night in Islington which was really good. Really small wee venue, but it’s fantastic down there.
MGM: A good response?
DG: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. We had a fan, a girl, come all the way over from Germany, from Hamburg, just for that show. She left her house at 6:00am, went to work then caught the plane from Hamburg, came to the gig, and she left this morning.
MGM: Fantastic. You can’t beat that. That’s got to make it all worthwhile for you, hasn’t it?
DG: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. And again, Facebook and stuff like that, you can actually go on and you say; “Listen, thank you so much for coming along.”
MGM: How are you finding the balance between the old material and the new songs? You did a three-night stint up in Glasgow, didn’t you, where you played each of the first three albums live?
DG: That’s right. That was fucking hard. Half of those songs we actually never ever played live. Even with Mark we never played them live. With the exception of the first album, Taking On The World, we’ve played all of the songs, because obviously, that’s your first album – that’s all you’ve got. When you go into your second album, you play four or five songs from the second one [Gallus].
So Gallus was probably the most daunting one for us, because there’s a lot of songs that we never played live, and it was more of an atmospheric album, I think, Gallus has got a different sound to it, and I was thinking, “God, is that going to have the same appeal live?” But it turned out to be my best night. It was great. It was absolutely brilliant.
MGM: Even though ‘Swagger’ has some of your biggest songs on it?
DG: Yeah. Well, ‘Word Up’ was originally going to be a B-side, from one of the singles off the Gallus album, I can’t remember what it was, third or fourth single. We were to go into the studio to do a B-side, but we had been jamming ‘Word Up’. We went, “You know what? Let’s do a cover version of Word Up.” That’s how it came about. It would’ve been 92, 93. We were really into the Metallica album at the time, the Black album, and we said “Let’s make it fucking heavy as that. Let’s do that.” And we did that, and it was like– the record company, “Fucking hell, this is amazing. This is not getting released in this album. We’re keeping this for the ‘Swagger’ album.”
MGM: What a good decision, though.
DG: Brilliant. It went obviously Top Ten with it and stuff like that. Great memories to see how something like that came about, just like, “Let’s just go and do it.” Sometimes the best songs have come out like that.
MGM: Are you finding any of the other ones difficult with your own range, for example?
DG: No, not at all. Not at all. I used to worry about the low songs– because Mark used to sing in a very low, sort of sultry voice. Like, ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’ and stuff like that, that’s proven difficult at times, to get the depth in that, and thickness, because he’s got a really thick, low voice. But apart from that, no, it’s fine. I mean, you’ve lived with them all your life, kind of been singing them all your life as well. When you’re on stage, even though I’ve always been the bass player, every time, I’m still singing.
MGM: Do you miss playing the bass?
DG: Sometimes, aye, I do. I always take a bass along with me. I always go and start jamming with the guys. But I do it when I’m in the studio, when I’m writing and recording, stuff like that. I’m always playing bass and stuff like that. Someone else will steal my ideas and stuff. It’s kind of nice to have that. But I like standing back sometimes, and just let everybody else carry on.
Leaving Dante to prepare for their set at that point, the review of their set at Camden Rocks can be found here: