Interview: Dante Gizzi from rock band Gun

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Gun’s seventh studio album, Favourite Pleasures, is released on September 15th. Informed by a back-to-basics approach and powered by strong rock sensibilities, the record was made in the band’s own Morse Code studios in Paisley, which Glasgowist recently visited.

From the pile-driving opener She Knows to the infectious, glam-stomping of Here’s Where I Am, this is a collection of new songs that are ready for a live performance. The band will take their show out on the road later in the year, including a date at the Barrowland Ballroom.

Lead singer Dante Gizzi sat down in the studio for a chat.

So you have the record ready to go now, what happens next?

Once you’ve got a record, I think it’s all about building towards the release date. Our album’s not out until September the 15th, so it gives us a bit of time. Originally, our plan was to have it out in March, to coincide with the tour that we were doing at the time with Black Star Riders, which would have been good, because you’ve obviously got a good audience to play new music and have it released at that time, but it just wasn’t doable.

We have a duty to make sure that the band are on top of things. That we have the right tunes. Sometimes you feel as though you are taking too much time, trying to come up with ideas. It plays in the back of your head. You wan

You just want to have a good album. You want people to listen, and you want to feel proud, you want to listen to it.

Bands still work to create an album that has a beginning, a middle and an end. With all the changes in the way we consume music, why do you think that’s still important?

I come from that generation. I think kids these days are of a different mindset. It’s all about streaming and Spotify and stuff like that, and that’s just the way it is. It’s just taken its natural course, so to speak. When iTunes got involved, being able to stream. Now, I think kids would rather hear … I don’t know. They wouldn’t listen to a full album, put it that way.

Well, there’s not the same attention span, but other people will sit down, make sure their speakers are in the perfect position and listen from the first track all the way through.

That’s brilliant. That’s amazing. That’s a total experience. I came from that. You went out and bought an album on the strength of hearing one or two songs from that on the radio. You would go, “Right, okay. Better get the album. I’m going to go get the album because I really like those songs.” You go home, you buy the album on Saturday afternoon with your pocket money. You go and put that album on and you listen to it back to back. You’d open up the sleeve, wanting to know what it was called, wanting to know the the lyrics, who they’re saying thanks to and stuff like that.

You just don’t get that these days. It doesn’t exist anymore. That’s just the way it is. For us, I think that’s probably something that we’ve always kind of liked to maintain. Obviously, I suppose it goes with the generation of music, or the listeners that we have. An album still has that appeal.

They still want that appeal, and that’s great. That’s brilliant to have that. Saying that, there’s kids that will come through from listening to music with their parents. My daughter is 17, and I gave her the Purple Rain album and she got a record deck a couple of Christmases ago. “Listen, you’ve got the Purple Rain album, listen, stick it on.” She loved it. She thought, “That’s impressive.” It’s kind of came back. In fact, we’re releasing the new album on cassette as well. We’ve got quite a few pre-orders for that, which is kind of cool.

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There’s something very visceral about unwrapping these things and putting them in and pressing play that you probably don’t really have with the digital medium.

I think there’s definitely something about it. It’s the whole thing of taking care of those decks and stuff like that as well.

We put together a Glasgowist Mix Tape at the start of the year. A Spotify playlist really. A lot of readers mentioned Gun as one of their favourite local bands. Listening to the bands, they come at things from a lot of different directions but there’s a particular swagger that’s common. The new album, it’s got a very rocky sound, a bit of an edge to it. Was that a conscious decision?

That was partly intentional. Having a bit more time to get this album together and work in the studio meant we were looking for those right hooks, the right songs.

I think, maybe, in the previous albums, we might have been a bit naïve, in the sense of that, as much as we love the songs that we recorded, there’s part of you that thinks, “Would this be good for radio?” Thinking about more mainstream radio stations.

You used to have that wee thought in your head. Obviously, you’d make yourself happy first and foremost, then it would be the fans, and then have that wee thought about, “Would it be good for radio? Could you hear that on the radio?” A lot of bands have that same thought process.

With this one, it wasn’t like that. We just thought, “Let’s write a great rock album.” It is definitely, by far, the rockiest album that we’ve ever done.

I would say it’s as heavy as the Taking on the World album. In fact, it’s more heavier than Taking on the World. The songs on Taking on the World, they’re quite … Not sweet, but they’re just not as heavy as some of the stuff on here.

With the exception of the song The Boy Who Fooled the World, which is the last track on the album, which is sort of piano based, sort of a vocal and piano thing, which didn’t actually start out that way. We had that really heavy, that was like Public Image.

We had a full backing track with that song. We thought, “Do you know what? Let’s just strip it down,” because we’ve got a heavy enough sounding album, it would be quite quirky to have a sort of more melancholy sort of laid back song just to sort of put it to bed. Yeah. Definitely, this is a much more rocky album.

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When you go out on the road, are there certain songs that always make it on the list first when you are thinking about your set?

Yeah. When you’ve got a catalogue, which is … This is the seventh album, the seventh studio album, and you’ve got a catalogue of that amount of songs, it’s a nice position to be in. It’s just having to choose a selection of songs.

If you’re only going to be playing for an hour and a half or whatever, you’ve got to think, you want to give the fans who have paid good money to come and see you to hear the songs they’ve grew up with. There’s an importance for me in that. I think that is fundamental. When somebody pays £25 for a ticket, yeah, you’re going to hear Steal Your Fire, yeah you’re going to hear Shame on You, or Word Up or whatever.

What’s the song that you look forward to performing when you are on stage?

It’s a funny, funny thing, and I don’t mind saying, but in rehearsals, the most boring song to play, for me, is Inside Out. I can’t stand it. When I play it live and the crowd are reacting to it, my God. That’s the song that actually lifts the set. It just escalates. That’s the song that can do it. For that reason, I’ll always have it in the set. It just opens up, I think, the whole vibe of the crowd, different reactions straight after that. Obviously, we always have it near later on in the set. It’s incredible. That is just bizarre how that is the case.

Obviously, with this album, I think there’s about four or five songs that we’ll kick in with the tour coming in December. It will make it a bit longer, the set, but the fans will love that. By that time, you’ll have three months of the album being out, so people will have acquainted themselves with the sounds of it

Do you have plans to go out on the road beyond your own tour?

Yeah, there’s some tour support for next year and also festivals. The festival circuit we’ll do next year. Because we’ve not really done it this year. There’s been a few, three or four festivals we’ve done. It’s a bit of a process. When you record an album, say it comes out in September, you want to work it. Take a year to work it. And the idea of having singles coming out during that time. You spent a lot of time working on it, getting it right. You spend a year and a half getting it right, so you want to give it as much exposure to people as you can.

I get the impression that Gun have always been pretty popular as a support band, probably because you know how to go out and wake the audience up a bit.

Oh, totally. We’ve been quite fortunate that way. I supposed the biggest one we’ve done was the Rolling Stones and that was an incredible buzz to do that, to get that phone call. We were going through a shit tour of America at the time. You’re just playing all the time. And we were just a month and a half into the tour and we’re playing these small venues, two, three hundred capacities. But there weren’t even two or three hundred people in there, it was like half-packed. It was demoralising. And then halfway through the tour we got a phone call saying, “You’ve been chosen by the Stones to play the tour, the Urban Jungle tour.” And it was between us and another 60 or 70 bands that were all vying for the slot and we managed to get it.

We sent them a fax, actually, because that’s how it came about. They sent us a fax saying, “What would you need in order to do the tour,” and we just sent a fax back saying, “We’ll take whatever you can give us.” And I think that’s what they appreciated. They thought that was amazing. And I asked them. I went up to Jagger. I said that to him. We were at a bar in Berlin and he goes … All the bands that were picked to do it, you know you could have done it, at the time was bands like Dan Reed and Joan Jett. Tonnes of bands. All different sizes.

And I says, “Why did you pick us?” And he goes, “Oh you reminded me of us when we first started out.” I thought, “Oh that’s awful nice,” and I said, “Can I buy you a pint?” And he went, “No, that’s alright, it’s a free bar.”

That was exactly what happened. I always tell people that. No, they were pounding double Jack Daniels and coke. And then he was rushed away with his model girlfriend and disappeared. But yeah, it’s great. Jesus, from playing small venues like that to playing massive stadiums. That was … wow. That took a wee bit of time to get used to. One minute you’re in the LA Troubadour or whatever and then you’re flying to Rotterdam to do De Kuip stadium.

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Is it harder to make a connection with an audience when it’s 60,000 people standing looking at you?

It is more difficult. When you walk on that stage you can’t help but look at the front 50 rows or whatever, 60 rows. It’s just close proximity. You can’t help yourself because you can see the faces. Farther back you can’t see. The sides you can’t see that much, so you don’t really concentrate on that. So if you’re part of the audience and you’re looking from the side of the stadium looking down, watching the band and they’re just concentrating on that, you just don’t feel as though you’re included. Another thing Jagger says is, “Look up, look around, look at people on the stands. If you see people on the sides, connect with them.”

It was easier for them because obviously they had the runway that goes straight into the middle. That’s why that idea, that concept came up. I remember seeing U2 doing it. Whatever stadium you play you’ve got to feel … if you’re playing in front of 60,000 people you’ve got to make them feel that it’s more intimate than what it is.

So in terms of when you’re back around these parts, where do you hang out in Glasgow? What places do you associate with being home?

We just kinda like hanging out and stuff like that. Sitting around the house or with family or going to different parks and stuff like that. Swimming and doing daft things like that. But if I’m going out, I’m going to my sister’s place. Carmen’s Cucina at McChuills it’s called. I’ll go and hang out there. I’m away that often though and when I’m back I just kind of like chilling and relaxing and spending time with the family. I think I’ve had my fair share of wildness when I was younger. When I do go out I end up becoming that person that I was 20 years ago. Doesn’t work out as well as it is easier to endure a hangover when you are a 21 year old.

So, what’s going to be the next single?

Silent Lovers is going to be the next single, which at one stage might have not got on the album. But it’s definitely our favourite now. It’s a great vibe to the song. We kind of wrote it during the time when Bowie passed away and that was a big shock to Jools and I. I remember not the studio here but it was another studio that we had up in the East End and I remember going in the next day and you can’t help yourself but go through all the back catalogue when someone passes away. You did it with Prince, you just go through the whole back catalogue of songs and think … I don’t know if it’s a way of paying respect or paying homage to that musician. Because what a talent he was. How diverse it was. How ever-changing it was. And I think there’s wee bits of Bowie in Silent Lovers, I would say.

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Gun Tour Dates

DECEMBER

2nd Glasgow Barrowland (Headline Show)

8th Manchester Club Academy (Co-Headline with InMe)

9th London Electric Ballroom (Co-Headline with InMe)

Gun – Favourite Pleasures Track List

She Knows
Here’s Where I Am
Favourite Pleasures
Take Me Down
Silent Lovers
Black Heart
Without You In My Life
Tragic Heroes
Go To Hell
The Boy Who Fooled The World

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