Gun have been taking on the world since stepping out of Glasgow in 1989. A string of early successes peaked with the top ten success of ‘Word Up’, and following a split and a number of line-up shifts, the band are back and going strong, as seen with 2017’s ‘Favourite Pleasures’. Readying a 30th anniversary tour, and preparing for the release of their first-ever sanctioned best of, we caught up with founders Dante and Jools Gizzi for a chat at Steelhouse Festival in Wales. Swagger; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi guys, how are you today?
Jools: We’re great. It’s a lovely sunny day. The last time they had sunshine here at Steelhouse was the last time that we played.
Dante: We’ve brought the sunshine so they’re asking us to play every year now!
Gun are the perfect festival band, as you’ve got a catalogue of really strong songs, and big singles.
Jools: That’s the great thing. You write songs, and you don’t know whether a song’s going to be a hit, or you don’t know how popular that’s going to be. You just go with your instincts, you go with what you think is right, and when you see it pay off, with people digging it and really linking it, it’s like; “Wow! They get it!” It’s amazing, and that’s all you can do, and you hope the fans like it. Obviously, we’ve got to be happy with what we’re writing first, but you never take it for granted. You just write as best that you can, and hopefully the fans will get it. They seem to dig a lot of our material, and that’s a good thing.
Going back to your early days, and Steve Harris from Iron Maiden was regularly photographed wearing a Gun t-shirt; what was it like to have the support of someone like that?
Dante: It was unbelievable.
Jools: Steve approached us when ‘Steal Your Fire’ came out [in 1992] to do a tour. It was a ‘Monsters of Rock’ tour, and it was Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Pantera, and Gun. And we were like; [*sheepishly*] “We don’t really fit in!”, and Steve said; “I don’t care. I want you to do it. I’ll pay you whatever you want to do it, because I love this band”. And I was thinking it’s going to be hard for us to fit in, but we did it because it’s Steve Harris! And he absolutely loved it. It was tough, but we got there.
Have you had much contact with Steve Harris since then?
Jools: We met Steve two years ago. He was playing with British Lion down at Ramblin’ Man Fair [in Maidstone, 2017], and we were telling him about the new record, and he goes; “Is it as good as ‘Steal Your Fire’?!” I was telling him that I was really proud of it, and he goes; “You know, that’s such a great record. I still play that record, and I still play you guys to this day”, and I’m like; “Wow!”
The band had a run of successful singles from your debut album, but there was also a lot of depth in tracks like ‘Taking on the World’.
Jools: We played Kelvingrove festival in Glasgow, and when we played ‘Taking on the World’, I saw this guy at the back through the whole of the crowd , running right through it, pushing his way to get to the front for when Dante started singing the first words. He was crying, and I thought; “That song really means something to him”. And that there sends shivers; the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And all the stories we’ve heard like that, what it means to folk, we’re really, really happy that it gets to people.
The band’s biggest hit was a surprising cover of Cameo’s ‘Word Up; in 1994; was that a record company suggestion to do that track?
Dante: No, that was going to be the b side of the last single on the ‘Gallus’ album. We’d been playing it live, so we just thought we’d go in the studio with it. We went in with [producer] Chris Sheldon who recorded all of ‘Swagger’, and we just went in and had a laugh with it, and made it as heavy as we possibly could. We just wanted it more in the style of Metallica, and just thought it would be great to do this song and just rip it to shreds.
So the record company then heard it and saw the potential?
Dante: We let the record company hear it, and they were like; “We don’t want to release this as a b side. This is definitely going on the next album. This is going to be massive”. And we were like; “What are you talking about?!” We had no idea how they were perceiving it. We just thought it was a great song to record because we had been playing it live and we’d been having a lot of fun with it. Sometimes that’s when the best songs actually sound really good; when you’re having fun with it, and you’re not overthinking it. So, it ended up getting released as the first single from the ‘Swagger’ album, with no knowledge at all how it would have went down with the fans. But everybody seemed to love it.
It was a top ten single in the end.
Jools: In the mid-week charts it was No.2, and we won an MTV award with it. We were one of the only Scottish bands ever to get an MTV award, believe it or not.
Was the poppier direction of follow-up ‘0141 632 6326’, and single ‘Crazy You’ a reaction to that heavier approach?
Dante: That is another song that did well. I’ve been looking at some of our recent stats, and that was one of the highest charting songs that we’ve ever had.
Jools: At the end of the year we’re bringing out a best of, and ‘Crazy You’ is on that. One side’s the best of Gun, and the other side is all the cover versions that we’ve done, and we’ve added a few more.
More recently, 2017’s ‘Favourite Pleasure’s has received some fantastic reviews.
Dante: We’re completely shocked at how well that did. That was, again, one of the highest charting albums that we’ve had, and that’s incredible.
Jools: Like I say, you write songs, you don’t know; you just hope people like it.
Dante: First and foremost, you’ve got to make yourself happy, and that’s the thing.
The band has went through a number of phases, but it must be very validating that the core of the brothers are still there and getting the results.
Jools: Absolutely. I’ve said it before, but back in the day you had the pressure of a label and stuff, and don’t get me wrong, there’s still pressure, you put pressure on yourself. But I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed it as much. So, if you’re happy, it can pay off in your work.
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Catch Gun on tour with FM and Dan Reed Network on the dates below.
Mon 9th Dec - O2 Academy 2, Bristol
Tue 10th Dec - Engine Rooms, Southampton
Wed 11 Dec - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Fri 13th Dec - KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
Sat 14th Dec - UEA LCR, Norwich
Sun 15th Dec - Rock City, Nottingham
Tue 17th Dec - O2 Academy, Newcastle
Wed 18th Dec, O2 Academy, Leeds
Fri 20th Dec - O2 academy 2, Manchester
Sat 21 Dec - Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow