Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Gentlemans Pistols

Gentlemans Pistols (no apostrophe) might be known to you through their regular appearances at UK skate events, or they might be known to you through the praising reviews they'd had in the international music press. They might not be known to you at all. Either way, they're a brilliant band doing a kind of music that not very many others can get right. Late 60s/early 70s smoky heaviness without sounding retro, glam rock grooves without sounding pop, and a punk attitude without being a cliche; Gentlemans Pistols are as heavy as a bag of rocks and more fun than a party on a bouncy castle next to a free bar with all your best mates. Imagine the best bits of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple exploding in a massive pile-up on the highway to hell and you're getting close...
Formed by James Atkinson in 2003- after his time playing guitar UK hardcore band Vorhees- and with A Third Foot shralper Doug McLaughlan on bass, Gentlemans Pistols have evolved to include former Send More Paramedics drummer Stuart Dobbins and grindcore pioneer Bill Steer. That's the same Bill Steer who co-founded the legendary Carcass and even played with the ground-breaking Napalm Death.
Following some extensive touring, the debut Gentlemans Pistols 7" 'Just a Fraction' appeared -on the Art Goes Pop label- in 2006, followed by the 'Lady' 7" on the mighty Rise Above Records. The band's self titled debut album was also released by Rise Above, in August 2007, and as we approach the release of new album 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure', we were able to bribe frontman James into telling us a bit about what's been going on.

In the last issue we asked a load of people what their favourite album of all time is. Let's start with that.
It's difficult to pin down an all time favourite album as there are different ones for different moods, but I'd definitely say that the one I go back to the most is 'Curtis' by Curtis Mayfield

That's a great record. Although not exactly what I expected from you. I expected Blue Cheer or something heavy and psychedlic. Are there any albums that you think are reflected in the music write? Does hearing certain music changes the way you approach writing?
Don't get me wrong, I love the first two Blue Cheer records, and bits of some of the later ones, but 'Curtis' is just a record I liked since I was young, and I can keep going back to it. If I was to pick something heavier, I would almost certainly say that the first Sir Lord Baltimore record ('Kingdom Come', the New York heavy metal band's album from 1970), or any of the Sweet's LPs would be up there. As for records changing the way you approach writing - yeah, it has to. When we first started we definitely tried to keep our influences within the classic 70s rock years and were listening to loads of glam records and heavy blues stuff and I think that can be heard in the first LP.

There are a handful amazing/authentic 70s-sounding heavy rock bands around just now, including your labelmates Withcraft and Electric Wizard. How did you get hooked up with Rise Above? It seems like the perfect label for you.
Back in 2005 we had a demo out and I handed it around a few of my friends, including a mate of ours who knew Lee (Dorrian, formerly of Cathedral and Napalm Death) and Will from the label. I had asked him if he could pass it on to them and instead he got us onto a gig with (legendary 70s hard rock/stoner band) Leaf Hound at the Borderline in London which he knew they were going to be at. They saw us and asked if we'd do a 7" with them, which we agreed to, and then a few months later, we talked about doing an LP.

It's quite a specific sound you have. Do you scour ebay for vintage equipment? I'm guessing you must be quite fussy about the gear you use.
We try not to get too fussy about the whole equipment thing. Some people can go crazy with it. As far as the amps we use, it's all old Marshall stuff, but if we have to play a gig using someone else's stuff it's no big deal.

Bill Steer, formerly of Firebird and Carcass, plays guitar in the band now. How did he get involved?
About a year ago, Chris (Rogers) left the band to start a family. We had previously done a tour with Firebird and were just about to go out and do some Irish tour dates with them and we had become pretty good friends with them. I called Bill knowing that he was busy touring and was unsure if he would have the time, or even want to do it. Luckily for us he agreed to join and we continued gigging almost straight away.

It must be pretty cool having somebody you've looked up to for so long playing your songs.
It was totally amazing for me that Bill wanted to play with us. Bill is a really cool guy and an amazing guitar player. He brings so much to the new material and we are really happy that he's in the band.

A lot of people reading this will know of Doug, your bass player. You've played a few skateboard-related events too. That must be pretty good fun, especially as you're not exactly the public's idea of what skateboarders listen to. A lot of people will be hearing your music that wouldn't normally think to seek it out.
The skateboard park gigs are always pretty funny and pretty hectic. Everyone seems to go crazy for it when we play at them. It's good for us if we can get across to a different audience when we play and the world of skateboarding has a lot people who seem to like what we do when we play at these events. Doug is awesome  - watching him skate is amazing, and when we do these events he is always skating his arse off before and after we play.

Do you ever worry he's going to break his wrist or something just before a show?
All the time. He's pretty limber though, and seems to slink out of those slams like a cat.

Gentlemans Pistols have played live a lot over the last seven years. Do you have a favourite place to go?
We've definitely had a lot of cool gigs. As far as favourite places, there are a few... Liverpool has always been a favourite, definitely some great people there. Belfast and Dublin were amazing. London has always been good to us too. Leeds has it's moments.

Do you have authentic 70s rock tours, or do you all tend to turn in for an early night with a cup of cocoa?
We do the authentic 'driving round in the back of a van and sleeping on people's floors' tour. We tend to have a drink or two whilst we are away and by the end of the night we will wind down with a few White Russians.

Any disasterous gigs?
We've been pretty lucky with live experiences, we played at a festival in Gloucestershire and it rained all day until we played and the sun stayed out for the duration of our set, only to start raining again as soon as we had finished. We had a gig in a little town in Italy in a small seated theatre which seemed to be filled with everyday random people from this town, and I had lost my voice and was struggling to even speak. It was pretty wierd going out on stage in front of this small seated audience of normal Italian townsfolk, but the fact that I couldn't hardly sing and we had to do two 45 minutes sets made matters even worse. Somehow we stumbled through it and received polite applause all the way through. Afterwards we thought that we had really done a bad job, but in true Gentlemans Pistols style, everything turned up roses, as everyone bought loads of our merchandise and helped load the gear out afterwards. The next day our host was showing me around the town and introducing me to people who had been at the gig, like the man from the butchers shop and the guy who owned the pizzeria, it was quite a strange event.

Is there any music you'd like to recommend to people who dig what you do?
As far as old stuff goes, definitely bands like The Sweet, Atomic Rooster, Sir Lord Baltimore and Wishbone Ash. There are so many amazing old records out there but I'd say they are a good place to start.

Do you all have day-jobs and stuff? Is it hard finding time to write, practice, record and tour?
It can be pretty difficult. We all work outside of the band in some capacity. As far as writing, practicing and recording - that's not a problem as I have my own studio. Touring is another matter altogther. We are currently in the process of putting the finishing touches to our new LP and as soon as that is out we will be out touring the record.

Can you desrcibe the new record? Has it turned out the way you planned it? Did you even plan it?
The new LP is called 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure' and it will be released on Rise Above records later this year. There was no real planning except for that we wanted to do a new LP. As for the sound, we are really happy with it and have taken a little more time over this one than our first. It's definitely a step forward for us and the songs are more developed that the first LP. We're really excited about getting it out there.

For the people who don't live near those places, where can your single be got?
You can get it from or from us at a gig.

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