Gun Brothers, Dante And Jools Gizzi Discuss Their Return To Form With Their Latest Album ‘Hombres’

From 'Taking on the World' to 'Hombres': GUN's Journey Through the Years...

Interview by Mark Lacey

Live Photos: Louise Phillips

 

35 years since the release of their iconic debut album ‘Taking on the world’, GUN are back with possibly the finest album of their career. The band has seen many line-up changes throughout their tenure, and whilst only brothers, Dante and Jools Gizzi remain from those early days, ‘Hombres’ sees the band return to the blistering form of that debut. Often cited amongst the greatest rock bands the UK has produced, GUN have a busy 2024, with dates across the UK and Europe. Dante and Jools found time to speak to MyGlobalMind.com about their new album, and what lies ahead.

“People always talk about their latest recording being their best album. I’ve heard many bands do it, and we’ve done it ourselves. But what I can really say is, I think this has really been the most enjoyable time in the studio. It was a coming together, there was great playing, and just a great atmosphere in the studio. It was so enjoyable, and I think that tells in the songs”.

 

MGM: You’re often described as Scotland’s greatest musical export. That’s quite some tag. How do you feel about that?

Dante: That’s a bit far-fetched.

Jools: Well, it’s overwhelming, and it’s really nice to hear that. It makes you proud of your band, proud of your music, what you’ve written, and what you have contributed to the music world. But I think of Alex Harvey. I think of Nazareth. I think of Simple Minds. These are our icons and I look up to them. I think they’re superior to what we’ll ever be. But it’s very nice to be tagged along with them.

MGM: Can we maybe go back and talk a bit about the early part of your career? Jules, I think you started the band out originally as ‘Blind Alley’?

Jools: Yeah, it started out as ‘Blind Alley’ and then it became a band called ‘Phobia’, and then we changed the name to ‘GUN’.

MGM: And then Dante, you joined the band the following year. What had your musical paths been up until that point for both of you? Had you played in other bands either together or apart?

Dante: No, I hadn’t even picked up an instrument. At the time I was being auditioned as the bass player I hadn’t ever picked up a bass guitar in my life. It was all very new and it had taken a bit of persuasion for me to join the band. It took a bit of time for me to feel the confidence. I was just a bit worried because I was only 17, straight out of school, and I was working in an Italian delicatessen. I was getting a good wage, and then up pops Jools asking me to join the band. The band had already been signed to A&M records, so they were getting a wage. The bass player had left and he’s actually asking me to come and join the band. It had taken quite a lot of persuasion.

Jools: It didn’t work out with Cami, our original bass player. I think he maybe felt a bit too pressured with it. We had already auditioned bass players and none of them had cracked it, and our manager says “Is there anyone in your family who’s musical or who would be interested”? I was like, maybe my wee daft brother. He likes music. He listens to my music, and he listens to me playing every day. I had an 8-track to record all my ideas. He’s listening to the music that I listen to, so he likes rock music. And the manager says, well, why don’t we get him in and work with him? We got Dante trying a couple of tracks on the actual album. We went back home and I practised with him, showing him the notes, and then he just picked it up himself. Every day he was constantly playing that bass guitar.

MGM: That’s an unusual path, from working in an Italian deli, learning to play bass, and then supporting the Rolling Stones at Wembley Stadium just 18 months later. And you had to convince yourself to do it?

Dante: I felt really bad telling my old boss that I had to leave, because he had just given me a wage rise the week previous. I was getting £40 a week, and it was going up to £60 a week. And then I had to tell him that I was leaving the delicatessen to join the band. He was Italian, and he says in broken English “If you ever become really successful, can I be your chauffeur”? They took it really well, and I was so nervous about telling them.

Jools: The person I was nervous about telling that he was leaving his job to join a band was my mother, God rest her, because she was like “He’s just got a wage rise. Is he still going to give me keep money”?

MGM: It’s now been 35 years, and whilst you’ve had a number of line-up changes throughout that time, and a pause in the middle, you are the two constants for GUN. Normally it’s the two brothers that have rivalry but you’re both sat on the same couch and you’re smiling.

Jools: I’ve got a knife stuck in his chest ha ha. But actually, it gets close; especially in the songwriting. You’re in the studio and he’s got an idea and I’ve got an idea and it doesn’t quite work. I’ll be like, why do you not like that idea? And he’ll say, “Because I just don’t feel it”. And I’ll be the same to him. We’re always to-ing and fro-ing in the studio. We have our arguments, but they’re constructive. It’s only for the best of the songs, and for the best of the band in the studio and what you feel comfortable singing or playing.

Dante: It has been 35 years of us been together as main members of the band. It’s tough because if you’re on the road and you’re going on tour for months here and there, and you spend a lot of time together, and then you’re back home and then you see each other again.

Jools: I know what to expect from Dante, and Dante knows what to expect from me. I think in the studio, we try to get the best out of each other, even live, we try to get the best; we’re always pushing each other. We do have our ups and downs, but it’s all constructive. I’ve never felt bad because somebody bought him two more Jack Daniels than they bought me.

MGM: Your first three albums are widely recognised as being some of the best rock albums to come out of the UK. But, after those albums you had a bit of a change of personnel. The fourth album was quite difficult for different reasons, and led to your split in ‘97. Do you remember how that felt at the time? Did it feel terminal or did it feel temporary?

Jools: For me, I think it felt a bit terminal, actually, because with the 0141 album, from day one I just knew it wasn’t going to sound right, it wasn’t going to be us. I don’t know why we went in to record and spend that amount of money to try and save this record, because the people I let hear the demos at the time were all excited about it. The reason we worked with Andrew Farriss was because our favourite two INXS albums were ‘Kick’ and ‘Listen Like Thieves’ and we just wanted a heavier rock version. Our biggest hit ‘Word up’ was a dance song, but it was a dance song that sounded like Metallica recording it, and that’s where we wanted to go with these demos. If we came back with a record with a killer track like ‘Word up’, it would have taken us to the next level. So, we thought, who did we get involved to do that, we’ve got Andrew Farriss, but Andrew Farriss didn’t produce any of the records. It was Chris Thomas who produced all those records.

Dante: It was just one of those things, and we hit a stumbling block with Andrew Farriss in terms of the direction we wanted to go. I remember we sat down with him, and by this point, we were a lot of money into debt with recording the album.

Jools: At that time, Hook End Manor was the most expensive residential recording studio in Britain at nearly £2,000 a day. And we were sitting there and sinking deeper into it, and nothing was coming back.

Dante: It just felt like this wasn’t the album that we wanted to make. We approached him, we said, look, the idea was for us to create a ‘Listen Like Thieves’ / ‘Kick’ type album. And he was like, oh, no, I don’t want to do that. We wanted to make a proper rock album, and that didn’t happen. Our management team, and the record company were all saying the same thing. Even Mark, to a certain extent, was put into the position where he was siding with the label and the management team, and it was just Jools and I at one point against our team, basically, because it wasn’t the album we wanted to bring out.

MGM: People on your fan groups, who have heard those original demos have been so positive about them. Have they ever been officially released, or will they?

Dante: The fans have asked us; please can you re-record them how they should have sounded or even release the demos? But it’s going to take me a bit of time to try to find them, because I’ve got about 150 8-track cassettes, and on pretty much all of them I’m singing the vocals, for the guides, for Mark to sing. That would be pretty cool for the fans to hear.

Jools: The demos were brilliant. So, if we could have made a little more of that real heavy sound in the studio, and kept the big guitars, but he just went completely left field to what we wanted. We were already spending fortunes in the studio, and A&M were like, well, we’re not writing it off. It just caused problem after problem. At the end of it, Dante and I were just, well, you released this record, fair enough. But none of us will be doing any promo for it because I’m not talking about a record that I really don’t have any faith in, and I really don’t like.

Dante: If you can’t convince yourself about the album, how can you convince others? We had that period where it all stopped and everything finished, and we fast forward to 2011 and when we got together and did the ‘Break the Silence’ album. That was us saying to ourselves, we love playing these songs. We love playing all the old songs. Let’s bring out a new album. It felt like we still had something to prove; we didn’t want to leave it the way it was back in 1997. We still had unfinished business.

MGM: When you got back together, you had a temporary period where Toby Jepson was your live vocalist, and then, Dante, you stepped up from bass to become the lead vocalist. That must have taken some adaptation. Did you feel any pressure to be a clone of Mark when you stepped up to sing?

Dante: That was the tough part, and what was going through my head. It wasn’t so much about how I felt about the way I would sing. I was thinking about the fans, and being constantly compared to Mark, because that’s a natural thing. It doesn’t matter how good a singer you are. You could be Robert Plant up there singing those songs, but it’s still not Mark Rankin. In order to make that move to front the band, we had to bring it new material to make it a progression, and that’s what we did do. But in terms of taking over vocals and being a frontman, we had a band called El Presidente, which was back in the mid 2000s. That was the very first time I fronted a band, and that was one of the most daunting periods of my life. I remember I played King Tuts Wawa Hut here in Glasgow to about 300 people with El Presidente, but it was just me and a backing CD. That was my very first show as a frontman. You could smoke at the time. During the solos, I just didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I just got this big cigar and started smoking in the solo section. There’s nothing more frightening than when there’s music getting played in the background. What do you do? I was thrown right in at the deep end. As much as I found it daunting, I still enjoyed it. I love being a singer and I think that’s something that I always wanted to do. Taking over in Gun was a bit scary at first because you assume that people are just going to always compare you, no matter what. But right now, at this moment in time, I feel like super confident with it.

MGM: Hombres is getting really good reviews. At the 100 club show you played six out of ten songs and they went down a storm. What did you want this album to signify? And what does the Hombres title mean for you both?

Jools: I think of all the territories in Europe where we’ve been successful; Germany, Scandinavia and Portugal; Spain has been the best. We’ve been really so well received and we’re just maybe putting out a little bit homage to the Spanish fans. Obviously, we’re in the studio, and there’s the Tres Hombres ZZ Top thing, so why don’t we just maybe call it Hombres.

Dante: People always talk about their latest recording being their best album. I’ve heard many bands do it, and we’ve done it ourselves. But what I can really say is, I think this has really been the most enjoyable time in the studio. It was a coming together, there was great playing, and just a great atmosphere in the studio. It was so enjoyable, and I think that tells in the songs.

MGM: A lot of the albums that have come out post COVID have been quite miserable, and yet your album is really quite upbeat and fun. So, not written during COVID?

Jools: No, we did. There were big parts of it that were, like ‘Shift in time’

Dante: We found it really difficult to write during that period because creativity was just completely lessened on a massive scale for us. Not knowing what the future was going to be. Will we ever play gigs again? What’s the point in releasing new material when you can’t get out there and promote it or showcase it? So that was a stumbling block for us. But I think this album is the best I’ve ever sang on. And that takes something for me to say that, because I don’t ever rate myself, but with this album I feel really confident.

Jools: I really do think we captured a moment in the studio. Dante sang his ass off in that studio and as we were coming out COVID, things were starting to look up a little. It got us all fired up.

MGM: You have three female guest vocalists on this album, including Beverley Skeet. What inspired that decision?

Jools: They’ve sung with Primal Scream, Pink Floyd, and Robbie Williams. They’ve sung with loads of people. But we first got introduced to them when we were doing the ‘Everyone’s a winner’ cover and Brendan, our manager got them involved. They’re three lovely ladies.

Dante: We love the style of it. We’ve always loved the sound of having female backing vocalists, even from day one when you listen to ‘Taking on the world’ and you’ve got Sharleen Spiteri singing on that album. Maybe it’s something we’ve always had. We actually don’t think about it, we just think it’s adds to the song.

MGM: You’ve been doing a whole bunch of promotional shows in advance of the album release date. A lot of bands are really paranoid about performing new songs live before the album comes out because they’re worried that any YouTube bootlegs will detract from that album experience. You’ve totally embraced it, and it seems to have paid off for you.

Jools: Well, that’s the whole point of it. We play them because we fucking love them. We want to get out there and let people hear it because we’re really up on the record and everything that we worked on in the studio. We just felt really confident about it. We really wanted to let audiences hear six new songs and if they can grasp what we’re doing, then by the time they listen to the album, they’ll like it even more.

MGM: ‘You are what I need’ is one of the highlights of the album. What was the inspiration for that song?

Jools: Musically it came from Bran Van 3000 or something like that? Drinking in LA. There’s this great really over distorted guitar and there’s these two chords. I loved that. We’re big Stones and Lenny Kravitz fans, and I thought if we could get an idea like that, that would be amazing. I think we captured that and I think it’s one of Dante’s best vocals on the whole album.

Dante: It’s just a cool vibe song. It reminds me of a summer vibe. I think that will definitely be a single.

MGM: Another interesting song on the album is ‘Boys don’t cry’. What was the thought behind that song?

Dante: It’s just about those people that feel as though the world is owed to them. I won’t go into any names. We’ve gone through a lot of musicians, and more often than not, it’s all about location. That’s why we’ve ended up with Rudy McFarland playing guitar. We went through a whole period with people, not so much having egos, but just wanting to do their own thing. That goes back to the very early days when Gun had just finished up doing the Rolling Stones tour. It was Baby Stafford and Scott Shields who then said to themselves, look, we feel like as though we can go out and do our own stuff now, so we’re going to leave the band. And that stuff just happened. I think that’s where the idea of ‘Boys don’t cry’ came from.

Jools: You’re meant to get really upset about it, but you just move on. Boys don’t cry.

Dante: We’re too long in the tooth. We don’t need any grief or hassles. We’re of an age now that can’t be bothered with the egos and all the rest of it. We just like to play the music, and have a good time.

MGM: You mentioned Rudy ‘Roo’ McFarland, who performed with you at the 100 Club album launch. He’s a powerhouse of a guitar player. Hopefully you’ve now found a forever line-up for Gun?

Jools: Touch wood! I would love it to be a forever line-up. I’ve always said we never rehearse enough as a band. We’ve never really ever done that because Tommy, our guitar player, was in Sweden, or Davey Aitkin, who filled in, was in Milton Keynes. Johnny was in Ireland and Alex Dixon was in London. We just wanted someone else who was local. We were informed about Rudy. And he just came in and blew us away. We stuck him right in the deep end and said, learn the ‘Steal your fire’ guitar solo. And there’s a song off the ‘Favourite pleasure’ album called ‘She knows’. They’re really difficult guitar solos. So, the boy came in to rehearse with us and he absolutely nailed it. He’s an absolutely fantastic guy. Fingers crossed now we can go and rehearse whenever we want.

Hombres’ is out now

For more information:

www.gunofficial.co.uk

www.facebook.com/gunOfficialUK

 

GUN will be performing live across the UK and Spain throughout 2024:

April

14th: In-store Performance & Signing @ Assai Edinburgh

15th: In-store Performance & Signing @ HMV Inverness

16th: In-store Performance & Signing @ HMV Aberdeen

17th: In-store Performance & Signing @ HMV Livingston

17th: In-store Performance & Signing @ HMV Ayr

18th: In-store Performance & Signing @ HMV Stirling

19th: In-store Performance & Signing @ Wax & Beans, Bury

25th: Hombres Launch Event @ Town Hall Montrose

26th: Hombres Launch Event @ St Lukes, Glasgow

27th: Hombres Launch Event @ PJ Malloys Dunfermline

May

9th: WOLF Barcelona, Spain

10th: Espacio Las Armas Zaragoza, Spain

11th: 16 TONELADAS ROCK CLUB València, Spain

12th: Sala El Tren Granada, Spain

13th: Sala CUSTOM Sevilla, Spain

15th: Shoko Madrid Madrid, Spain

16th: Urban Rock Concept Vitoria-gasteiz, Spain

17th: Escenario Santander Santander, Spain

18th: SALA H PONFERRADA Ponferrada, Spain

19th: Sala Capitol Santiago De Compostela, Spain

20th: Porta Caeli Valladolid, Spain

July

19th: Maid of Stone Festival 2024, Maidstone

December

4th: Scala, London

5th: KK’S Steel Mill, Wolverhampton

6th: Academy 2, Manchester

7th: SWX, Bristol

8th: The Brook, Southampton

10th: Brudenell, Leeds

11th: Wylams Brewery, Newcastle

12th: Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

13th: Mac Arts, Galashiels

14th: Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

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