Interview with Lee Mark Jones, aka the Gypsy Pistolero

Lee Mark Jones, aka the Gypsy Pistolero, shares some old school tales from the road, and teases fans with new music, and a busy schedule of UK shows planned for 2023.

Interview by Mark Lacey

‘We always got told we were like the bar band from the Titty Twister. I just thought, OK, let’s become it. So we just went with ‘Day of the Dead’ makeup and came out with sombreros, which was really a pain in the ass ‘cause you can’t walk through doors with them on. People seemed to love it. Lemmy used to say it best. People want to see a star on stage; they want to see Ziggy Stardust, they don’t want to see the bloke next door’.

MGM: The Gypsy Pistoleros have just returned from a barn storming performance at HRH Spring Break. The photos and the fan reviews speak for themselves. And the critics love you too right?

LMJ: We went on just before Crash Diet and Reckless Love, and that was funny, because Crash Diet’s backing tracks went down, and Reckless Love’s. As we don’t use them, we were semi all right, playing with no monitors, but that was our first time we played ‘Come on Eileen’. They went nuts. Some twat of a critic called us and the Dexys Midnight Runners of rock. We decided, let’s own it. Fourth time we’d even rehearsed it.

MGM: Gypsy Pistoleros don’t like to be labelled with your music, but for people coming to it for the first time, how do you describe it? You don’t like to be drawn into those classic rock comparisons.

LMJ: Flamenco punk? Glam rock, I suppose. All these bands jump on some little bandwagon together. It’s like, why? I think it was actually the Smiths… not that they’re a massive inspiration for me …. but when they first got together again, they didn’t want to join the big party in the one room. They just went into their own little corner and did their own thing. And after a while everybody started coming in and seeing what was going on. But no … the new wave of classic rock? What does that even mean? Classic rock to me is like Boston and all those type of bands, which has nothing to do with us.

MGM: The Gypsy Pistoleros have got recordings that date back to 2005, but your story starts much earlier than that, doesn’t it? You were in several other bands and your story even took you to Spain?

LMJ: I was in a band in the UK called White Trash and we used to support Lords of the New Church, Kill City Dragons. We were part of the Soho glam punk rock n roll type stuff that was going around. Dogs D’Amour were there, the Quireboys were there. And by 1989, it was all sort of dying. My girlfriend at the time was from Spain, so I moved to Spain with her to Zaragoza, which is the equivalent of Liverpool, so it was very unglamorous. But we formed a band over there called The Last Gang and it was quite a big thing in Spain because no English bands were residing over there. We were half English, half Spanish, because I brought guitarist with me as well. We just got some amazing gigs through a promoter I knew called Robert Mills. And we did the Ramones, Nazareth, UFO, Sabbath, Dio …. toured with most of them, did a few one offs with Sabbath when Dio was singing for them. We did Sepultura too. That was interesting. But the Ramones tour was the big one, then Motorhead in in ’95 and ‘96, and that was cool. That’s how I started it. We used to rehearse in the desert in these little rehearsal studios and all the bands used to go down there, hang out, and get completely wasted. When we were drunk, we used to come into each other’s rehearsal spaces and this Flamenco band kept begging us to play ‘Anarchy in the UK’.

So, we played it and they joined in flamenco style and it sounded amazing. There were these flamenco rumba tracks from the seventies that were big in Zaragoza, and so we rocked up a few of those songs as a laugh, and they sounded great. When we supported the Ramones in ‘93, I said, let’s do about two or three of those tracks … and the Spanish kids were mortified. There was just stunned silence at first, but then about 30-40 of the gypsies in the audience started double clapping to it and it was like great. People used to laugh, but we got away with it.

So, that tour was when I first discovered it. I came back to England in 1999 and then we joined some shitty Rage Against The Machine group. I just forgot about it until 2005 and I sort of brought it back. The first Gypsy Pistoleros had Neil Phillips from the Yo-Yo’s on guitar. And there was Scott Garrett from B-Movie Heroes. Ian who used to be in White Trash with me, and myself and that’s how it all sort of started. That incarnation was only together for a couple of years and we did tours with LA Guns. Faster Pussycat, Bang Tango, Bullet Boys, the Glam Slam Tour around UK/Europe. We went to the States and we played Rocklahoma from 2007 to 2011 with basically every glam band you want to mention.

MGM: You got to live through the golden era of glam sleaze rock. So many amazing artists. Would have been great to have seen Kill City Dragons around that time.

LMJ: I love that band. I was friends with Dave Tregunna and that’s how we got the Lords of the New Church supports. And when he was doing Kill City Dragons, we did three or four dates for them. We played the Electric Ballroom in Camden with them and they were fantastic band. I still keep in touch with Billy G Bang (Billy Douglas). I don’t know why they weren’t massive. Well …. Andy McCoy destroyed it all, didn’t he, by stealing half the band?

MGM: What was it like supporting the Ramones in 1993. That was around the time of the ‘Mondo Bizarro’ and ‘Acid Eaters’ albums, the latter of which was basically a covers album. The band were on the last legs and falling out at that point, weren’t they?

LMJ: Well, CJ was the bass player at that point, and Joey was not really there. It was really weird. They used to have a ramp up to the stage for him and they’d have minders to make sure that he got up there on stage, but he was not there …. just a zombie on the mic. But as soon as the curtain dropped and it kicked in, he just came alive. And as soon as the encore was done, bang, that was it. Deactivated again. It was really strange. I spoke to him, and I said we supported Lords Of The New Church and he wasn’t there. He was on a pinball machine and he went, have you got a quarter? And I went, no, dude, we’re in Spain. I put a peseta in and he looked at me to pull the pinball hammer back and the ball just went up and straight down, and then he flicked the switches and it was really strange. He was really on the way out then, I think.

The guitarist, Markey had all the power in that band at that time. CJ used to come and play on stage with us. We were signed to the Ramones management, Red Eye Management, and they sorted a deal through Sire Records for us but we beautifully disastrously, absolutely bollox-ed up that deal. We were playing in Madrid and the Ramones manager …. well, we thought road manager at the time …. came up to us and said, hey, you know, ‘Anarchy in the UK’? Lose it. And I’m thinking, you’re the freaking Ramones. You really threatened by us playing ‘Anarchy in the UK’. So, we said, oh all right. Anyway, next night we were playing and we started up the first notes of Pretty Vacant. The crowd went mad and he was on the side of the stage and we were all flicking him V signs. But we found out that he was their manager and it was all tied in with Sir Records, and so we were dropped from the tour. We were supposed to go to the States with them. So, that was not a great moment, but it was amazing.

Those bands like UFO, Ramones, Nazareth. You can understand why there were such legendary bands because there was just something about them. The Ramones has a 22 or 23 song set list. And I knew every one, nearly every bloody word of it. Let’s forget about Bohemian Rhapsody. Let’s write three minute songs with a hook. Simple.

MGM: What was the catalyst for you guys getting back together in 2020, albeit with a different line-up?

LMJ: In 2010, we signed to Heavy Metal Records and released a Greatest Hits album. We were promised loads of things, and none of it materialised. I’d set up a press launch and a gig at the St Moritz in London, and the rest of the band at the time were like, oh, do we really have to go? And I thought, oh, fuck this, I’m not doing this anymore. The whole thing about the promo was not right. They hadn’t got us on any support tours. They said they would, so I just walked away from my own band. But Heavy Metal Records could use the name for ten years, which they did, and that’s why you had the guitarist carry on with some tribute band line-ups. I went away and did a master’s degree in touring theatre and drama and did some really dodgy B movie films. If anybody really wants to look one up, look for ‘Jurassic Predator’, where I play a complete psycho mercenary.

MGM: The new incarnation of the band also coincided with your revitalised image of the white faces and black eyes. It’s one thing that fans now most recognise you for

LMJ: We always got told we were like the bar band from the Titty Twister from ‘From Dush Till Dawn’. I just thought, like, OK, let’s become it. So, we just went with ‘Day of the Dead’ makeup and came out with sombreros, which was really a pain in the ass cause you can’t walk through doors with them on. We played that for like a year and I got session musicians in; Mark, my mate from White Trash. We got Vinnie (Jan-Vincent Velazco), who was in Ghost, and Diamond Black. He’s now in Pendragon and a session drummer. And we got a double bass player. But after that album was out, I thought I want to get a real band together. So, I stole the best musicians in Worcester, essentially, and we kept the corpse paint and the eyes, and went with a Peaky Blinders sort of style for the single, and it just stuck. People seem to love it. Lemmy used to say it best. People want to see a star on stage; they want to see Ziggy Stardust, they don’t want to see the bloke next door. That was what Grunge was.

God knows where it’s going to end, but people haven’t got much money, and if they’re going to come out, you’ve got to give them a show. That’s why we played ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’, which went down great, but ‘Come on Eileen’ also went down a storm. Some people are like, oh, are you a serious band? And I’d rather people remember something, and have a good time, than see this posturing bullshit from the new wave of classic rock type thing.

MGM: How do you think your current line-up compares with the previous incarnations of the band? You’ve got some great musicians.

LMJ: They’ve all taught at one point, so they’re really top notch. Kerry and Crag play in a covers band, so they can play anything and they know all the stuff that works by playing classic songs ….. everything from The Killers to the real old classics. So, when we wrote this new album, which is hopefully coming out at the end of the year, it all went into the melting pot. It’s sounding great because we got Dave Draper producing it. He’s playing quite a bit of guitar on it as well, so you’ll get a bit of the Wildhearts sound.

MGM: You’ve just posted on your socials that you’re looking for a second guitar player. What are you hoping that will bring to the table for you?

LMJ: We felt Pete plays such intricate high bits and it’s very lead, I think, and we just sound a bit thin. And I wanted to just punk it up a bit. That’s where I come from. I started when I was fourteen in a punk band and we were supporting the Damned at the age of sixteen. So that’s where I come from and I want that cut. It’s all about being lovely and pretty, but I still want the balls. And we are a rock band and we are playing Hard Rock Hell and Planet Rock festivals. You need to really kick ass; it needs to cut and it needs to really rock out. Not in a new wave of classic rock style, though.

MGM: At the beginning of last year, you were teasing people with the new music, and the new album is going to be called Duende Go-Go Loco. How does the sound compare to your previous album ‘Mescalito Vampires’ which had a slightly more commercial edge?

LMJ: About three or four tracks are very flamenco rock with a punk edge. One is an out-and-out return to retro glam. And there are a couple that are quite punky. And there’s ‘The Ballad of Tommy Shelby’, which is like a weird folk romp punk stomp. I detest those bands that you play two songs and that’s it. Every other song is the same. So, we had just one rule, which was there are no rules. Whatever works for the song, works for the song. Obviously, we want to keep the elements of the flamenco, which we can’t get rid of now. I was going over one of the new tracks called ‘Tears in the Rain’, which is obviously a Blade Runner rip off, lyric wise. But I was thinking, there’s no flamenco in it. But I think the album’s harder edged. We had David Draper, who does all the Ginger and Wildhearts stuff. He’s done Nickelback, and Kerbdog. He’s well known for the massive guitar sound that he’s got, and he’s put these guitars down on the tracks, it sounds so big; really stadium-ish, so I think we need that second guitarist live.

MGM: You’ve just filmed a video for your new single ‘What it feels like to be a girl’ in a Peter Kay / Phoenix Nights style working man’s club. Those lyrics have appeared on a previous Gypsy Pistoleros song. Is it the same version of the song that was put out on the 2007 album or is it different?

LMJ: It’s a totally different song. But I love the lyrics from that one and it didn’t really do a lot. There’s some great stuff on the Wild Beautiful Damned album. It’s so sad when you’ve only sold a few thousand, and so few people have bloody heard it, compared to some of the stuff that gets mass sales and mass broadcasting. I just thought it’s a great set of lyrics about a serial killing transvestite. So, let’s bring it back with a complete nod to the Sweet and early Slade. It’s just a fun track, and I obviously dress up as a serial killing transvestite in it. We also dress up as a full glam band from back in the day, for which we’ve got some stick on social media.

MGM: Given your renewed success and people wanting to come out and watch the Gypsy Pistoleros, is there an appetite to put some of those old albums out again?

LMJ: I’d like to, but unless you’ve got the right deal, is it worth it? I’d love to put a package together with everything on it, vinyl and CD. But let’s see how the new album does. This is, in my opinion, the best album that I’ve ever done. And David Draper is an absolute genius But I don’t even know what great hopes are nowadays. We were streamed to death for ‘Livin La Vida Loca’, and suddenly Spotify decided that because we were streaming so heavily in Latin countries, they’d just wipe the figures, which completely screwed us up for the Christmas number one campaign. If you’re in an indie band and you’re not on a main label, it’s just an automated email that goes, sorry. There’s no recall.

I’d love to for those that want it. Maybe if this does really well, I’d love to actually re-record all of the really old cracking songs with Dave Draper because I just think they would be on another level and there is so much good stuff there. I think there’s a live album on the cards too.

MGM: You’ve been announcing a lot of shows over the last couple of weeks and you’ve just announced a date in London at the New Cross Inn. Do you expect to showcase any of the new music at those shows?

LMJ: The New Cross Inn is a cracking venue. On these shows we’ll probably play eight tracks off the new album, and about four or five of the classics. And ‘Come on Eileen’. That was done as a joke as a reply to a critic, and went down so well the record label are on about sticking it out as a Christmas single. That would be a wonderful way to go, wouldn’t it? Yeah, have a hit with that cover, and be hated for it forever. That’ll be my musical heritage; my legacy.

MGM: You played at the Gifford in Wolverhampton for the Dementia-fest shows and you’re playing another one in Coventry. That’s brilliant that you’re support that charity, but have you got any kind of affiliation with dementia?

LMJ: Dave Evans asked us in about 2010 and we said we’d play it but we couldn’t because I think we had to go to the States, and so I owed him from that time. And my old man, I think, is starting to sort of go that way, so it is quite close to my heart. It’s a great get together and there’s no bitching between the bands at all, which is lovely when you come together for something like that. We really had a great night there at the Gifford, which I think we’re returning to in November.

MGM: You’ve done your Masters in touring theatre. How much of the Gypsy Pistolero is you, and how much of that is a character?

LMJ: Well, it’s really strange. I’ve messed up so many chances in the old Gypsy Pistoleros because I was a complete alcoholic and speed freak. I was completely out of control on loads of occasions, and for the last three years, I’ve been teetotal. So, it was almost a reinvention, if you like. I suppose the character is something you hide behind. I use it because I used to think that I needed to get pissed out of my face to be on stage, and I suppose now, in a way, I’m hiding behind that mask, but it works. The vibes are that we’re just having a good time and a laugh, not taking ourselves ultra seriously, and it just works. That’s how that has developed, and obviously through the theatre, I did a one man show in Edinburgh called ‘A Rock N Roll Suicide’, where I dressed up as Ziggy Stardust with a mask. Ziggy Stardust was my alter ego, because I’ve got ADHD, and that was the alter ego about the drugs and everything. And I was telling my Lemmy stories and Axl Rose stories, days on the road, Ramones … and funnily enough, that’s where we connected to Golden Robot. This Australian girl came up to me and went, hey, my cousin’s got a record label, he’d love you. And he got in touch, and I licenced to them, and they released the Greatest Hits album. That’s how I got back into it. And then I said, sod it, I’m going to do it properly now. I don’t drink, so let’s have a crack at it and do it properly and do these songs justice. When I think about ‘Wild beautiful, Damned’, I would love to redo it, and redo it how it should have been done.

MGM: What’s the new experience of trying to write music without stimulants like? Do you feel more exposed?

LMJ: Strangely enough, that’s the easiest part. We used to think, we’d got to get wankered, and we’ll write a fantastic rocking sleazy track. No, you just pass out, or talk shit, come up with a crap song and the next day you go like, really? Did we write that? Whereas now, I go up to Kerry’s and sort of jabber at her and she’ll try and decipher it into some sort of pattern on the bass. And then we’ll take it to Crag and put the drums down, and then the guitar goes on last, so we’ve almost got it formatted there and it’s easy. I find it so much easier now than ever before, which is strange. I wish I’d known this years ago.

It’s also wonderful because you actually remember stuff now. Somebody told me they thought they’d seen the Gipsy Pistoleros in Budapest and I went, I’ve not been to Budapest. And they were like .. yeah, you were. We’d been supporting LA Guns at the Wig Wam Club, and I don’t remember a thing about it. People go, you look young for your age, but I think I must have lost about 15 to 20 years through not remembering. It’s all new to me in a way, so it’s almost coming back as a new person. I’m really excited … like a kid with it.

For more information about the Gypsy Pistoleros:

GYPSY PISTOLEROS LINE UP:

Gypsy Lee Pistolero – Vox, bad rumba guitar

Pistolero Pete Mann – Great Guitars

Kez Pistolero White – Bass

Craig Pistolero Sharpe– Drums

www.gypsypistoleros.com
www.facebook.com/GPistoleros/

The band will be performing live across the UK throughout 2023:

25th March: The Lewes Con Club

28th April: Dementia Aware Fest, The Arches, Coventry

4th May: HRH Roadtrip, Ibiza

19th May: The Vaults (Yorkshireman Rock Bar) Sheffield

24th June: The Vic, Coalville

GYPSY PISTOLEROS “Duende a Go Go Loco! U.K Tour

4th August: The Cobblestones Bridgwater

5th August: SavFest, The Vic, Coalville

11th August: 45 Live, Kidderminster

18th August: A New Day Festival, Faversham, Kent

25th August: MOFEST (Headline), The Melbourn Rock Club

26th August: HRH Sleaze Festival, Sheffield

1st September: New Cross Inn, London

7th September: Trillians, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

8th September: The Pub, Lancaster

9th September: Bannermans, Edinburgh

10th September: Ivory Blacks, Glasgow

22nd September: The Ainsdale Cricket Club, Southport

23rd September: The Dragonffli, Pontypool, Wales

7th October: Quarantune Rocks Festival Sat 7th October The Vic, Coalville

4th November: Hard Rock Hell Festival

11th November: The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

 

 

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