Gun is a hard rock band from Glasgow, Scotland. They are best known for the song "Better Days" as well as their cover of Cameo's "Word Up!".
Originally called Blind Allez, then for a short time 'Phobia', GUN were formed in 1987 by Giuliano Gizzi (guitar) and Cami Morlotti (bass), with Mark Rankin (vocals), Alan Thornton (drums) and David Aitken (guitar). Signed in 1988 by A&M Records the band line-up changed after Thornton, Morlotti and Aitken parted company with them and new recruits Dante Gizzi, Scott Shields and Baby Stafford joined. In the studio, Jim McDermott (Kevin McDermott Orchestra, Simple Minds and The Silencers), provided drums on the albums Taking On the World and Gallus. Debut album Taking On the World was also released this year. Rankin's cousin Sharleen Spiteri, of fellow Scottish band Texas and ex drummer Thornton contributed backing vocals to several songs on the album. The single "Better Days" from the album made the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart. Gun toured the US and supported The Rolling Stones on their European Urban Jungle Tour of 1990. Tours with Bon Jovi and Def Leppard followed shortly after.
After the band had signed to A&M records in 1988, they began recording Taking On the World, the credited lineup being Mark Rankin on vocals, Guliano Gizzi on guitar, Stephen "Baby" Stafford on guitar, "Dante Gizzi" on bass, and Scott Shields on drums. The album was released on 5 July 1989 to warm reception. The album featured the single "Better Days" which was a hit in England, landing them the first of many appearances on the British Television show Top Of The Pops. Videos were subsequently made for the songs "Inside Out", "Money (Everybody Loves Her", "Taking On The World" and "Shame On You", as well as the aforementioned "Better Days". All of the videos were compiled onto a commercially released video tape entitled "Taking On the World : THE VIDEOS". In late 89, it was announced that GUN was to support The Rolling Stones on their 1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour through Europe.
Alex Dickson replaced Stafford before GUN departed to support The Rolling Stones on their 1990 European tour, supporting their Steel Wheels album. In 1991, after the tour for Taking On the World had concluded, GUN entered the studio with producer Kenny MacDonald (who produced the band's debut album) to record their second record entitled Gallus (album), of which the single "Steal Your Fire" was a minor hit. Spiteri and Thornton again contributed backing vocals to the album.
Both Dickson and Shields left before the release of Swagger (Gun album), Dickson still being featured on the Swagger record albeit an uncredited appearance throughout the album, recorded before leaving to join Bruce Dickinson's solo band in 1994, leaving Giuliano to end up taking over all guitar duties. Mark Kerr (brother of Jim Kerr, lead singer of Simple Minds who coincidentally were on A&M in North America) replaced Scott Shields on drums. Swagger was easily their most successful album, propelled by the success of their version of "Word Up!" The single was a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart, charted well in many other territories and won an MTV award for best cover version. "Don't Say It's Over" was also fairly successful, but not to the extent of "Word Up!".
Decline and split:
The band took a break and returned three years later with yet another new drummer, Stuart Kerr (formerly of Texas), a keyboard player, Irvin Duguid, a revised name (G.U.N. - the reason given at the time, was to distance the band's name from the Dunblane shooting incident and to show some sensitivity to those involved, as Rankin explained in an interview for the website dotmusic.com) and a new album 0141 632 6326 produced by INXS keyboard player Andrew Farriss. However, the album sold poorly in comparison to Swagger, peaking at No. 32 in the UK Albums Chart. Many fans and even some of the band blame the overproduction of Farriss for the failure of the album . Demos of some of the songs exist such as "Crazy You" and "My Sweet Jane" that show how the album was intended to sound before Andrew Farriss took over the production helm, showcasing a continuation of sorts of the "Swagger" era sound.
The band split in 1997 and aside from a few one-off reunion gigs in 1998 (Paradise Garage, Lisbon, Portugal) and 1999 (Scotland Rocks for Kosovo charity event), had not been active as a unit before reforming, with Toby Jepson as guest vocalist, for a Rockradio charity gig in January 2008. Two Gun CDs were released (The Collection and The River Sessions - a two CD set featuring various live performances including some acoustic tracks and a 3 song set of cover songs from Bowie, Rage Against The Machine, and T-Rex) during their hiatus, and all the previous individual members went on to other projects within the music industry. An official fan site was set up, in agreement with the band, with previous and current members of the band participating in live web chats and contributing to the forums from time to time.
Reformation and future:
In January 2008 Joolz and Dante Gizzi played a set of GUN songs, with Jepson guesting on vocals, and Alan Thornton on drums at the 'Garage' in Glasgow, Scotland. The gig was organised by 96.3 Rock Radio in aid of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity.
In April 2008, GUN announced on Rockradio that they were to reform and confirmed that Jepson would join the band on a permanent basis, replacing Mark Rankin as vocalist, who gave his blessing to the reformation and new line-up. Thornton also returned to his original position as drummer until being replaced by Gordon McNeil in October 2008. They played several festival dates before launching their own headline tour. New material has also been recorded, with a release to coincide with the 20th anniversary of their first album, Taking On the World.
In May 2008, GUN played the Rockradio Manchester launch festival. This was followed by an appearance at Rockers, Midland Street, Glasgow, Scotland on 11 July 2008 as a warm up for their appearance on the main stage at the 2008 T in the Park music festival, the following day. After playing a couple of warm-up gigs in 2008 at Vivaz, Scarborough and Tackeroo, Cannock, GUN played two 'one night only' concerts at Shepherds Bush Empire, London and The ABC, Glasgow on 2 December. At the Glasgow gig, original members Jools and Dante Gizzi were reunited on stage with early GUN drummer, Scott Shields. Shields replaced McNeil for one song, "Better Days". Shields also played drums, along with McNeil, at the aftershow warm-down at Rockers, Glasgow.
2009 would have seen GUN play the Castle Rock festival in Caldicot, Wales and the Indie Guitar Festival, Oxfordshire but both events were cancelled due to the ongoing economic downturn. They subsequently went out on tour and played venues in Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh in May 2009. The Inverness gig saw the debut of "Let Your Hair Down" which the band then went on to play at both subsequent venues in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. York and Wolverhampton dates were completed in June. The band then played the Derrame Rock Festival in Asturias, Spain on 11 July 2009. A concert in Wiesen, Austria was followed in October by a return to Spain with five dates in Valencia, Madrid, Gijon, Bilbao and Barcelona, and three consecutive dates at Club Pacific Rock in Paris. November saw the band play Lisbon, Portugal. The band also played the Hard Rock Hell Festival in Prestatyn, North Wales on 4 December 2009. The Prestatyn Festival was preceded in November by a UK tour.
2010 saw McNeil leave GUN to concentrate on his own project, GoGoBot. He was replaced by Paul McManus, previously of the bands La Paz and 'No Dice'. GUN supported Lynyrd Skynyrd on the UK leg of their 2010 tour, and followed this with the Popkiller Part 1 tour to promote their new mini-album of the same name.
On 28 June 2010, Jepson announced he was stepping down as GUN's singer due to other commitments. The statement was reproduced on the official GUN website the same day with an additional statement by Jools and Dante Gizzi confirming Jepson's departure. They also stated the band's future would be considered and that updates on this would follow in due course. Shortly after this the official website was removed and a placeholder page was left in its place. Copies of both announcements were made available on the official fan page
In late July 2010, the Gun website was updated. It was announced that Dante Gizzi would move from bass guitar to lead vocals and a new bass player was confirmed in October 2010 as Derek Brown, former guitar technician for the band during the "Swagger" tour. GUN's first gigs with the new line-up took place on 31 January and 1 February 2011 at the ABC2 in Glasgow.
GUN played three gigs in December 2011, The Twa Tam's in Perth and King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, giving fans a taster of the new album (due out in 2012) with their new tracks "Last Train to Central" and "14 Stations".
GUN also introduced their latest addition to the band, ex El Presidente guitarist Johnny McGlynn.
On 28 February 2012, it was announced that Gun were due to play at the Download 2012 festival.
In 2013 it was noted by GUN fans that bass player Derek Brown was not present in the lineup for gigs in both London and Glasgow. Despite fans of the band asking if he had left the band, no confirmation or reasons for his absence were forthcoming from official band sources.
GUN's latest work has moved to a pop rock sound with the introduction of keyboards, synthesizer and saxophone and move away from driving guitars and heavy drumming, with Dante stating in a Daily record interview the following - "We did Download last year and enjoyed it. There were 10,000 people standing in a tent for us and we went down really well, but we looked around at other bands there, metal stuff, and it's not our scene" and "One of them, No Wrong Turn, sounds phenomenal. It's a bit different. It's not your out-and-out rock. Gun were never like that anyway, we always had a bit of a varied sound. You could never pigeonhole the band." also "It has a sound I think people may recognise musically from the past, but it takes a different turn. I listen to a lot of new stuff and a lot of dance, and I think that is what makes it a bit different."
Several reviewers have also referred to GUN's last album as pop rock, with Alan Holloway of RockUnited stating the following: "Whilst it's hard to get too excited, I can see this album hanging about for some time as a good one to play when I just want to kick back and listen to some good, uncomplicated upbeat pop rock."
Gun are currently working on a new studio album set for release on Universal Records in early 2015.
October 2014 will see the release of a 25th anniversary of their first album Taking on the World. This is a 3 disc special edition release with b-sides, live tracks, and other songs for fans. In November 2014, Gun will play 3 consecutive sold out nights at King Tut's WahWah Hut in Glasgow. The first show will have the band playing their first album, "Taking On The World", in its entirety. The second night, they will play the album "Gallus". The third night, they will play the album "Swagger". Giuliano Gizzi thanked fans for their support and proceeds from the shows will provide a fantastic contribution to the Sunday Mail Centenary Fund.
On 1 December 2014 the band announced on their website that new album Frantic would be released in the UK on 23 March 2015 in both physical and digital formats with various pre-order bonuses available before 1 February.
Outside projects and work:
In 2005, Dante Gizzi resurfaced in the glam rock band El Presidente. Thornton also collaborated on the band's debut album, playing nine of the drum tracks.
Jools Gizzi, Thornton and Morlotti 2006 joined up in 2006 to reform as 'Blind Allez', along with singer Peter Scallan and guitarist Ian Murray. Gizzi also collaborated with Deacon Blue and Texas as well as contributing in the studio to El Presidente.
Dante and Giuliano Gizzi have also collaborated with Rosie and the Goldbug, co-writing two songs for the group's eponymous 2008 debut album.
Shields has contributions to the films Black Hawk Down and Bend It Like Beckham and was also playing and touring with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros until Strummer's death. Shields and other members of the band put the finishing touches to Strummer's last album.
Stafford recorded an EP under his own name in 1994 called Paper Love Maker, which also featured Shields on drums. He later played with the band 'Breaker'.
Dickson has played with Bruce Dickinson, Emma Bunton, Robbie Williams and Calvin Harris since leaving GUN, and is also a member of the rock supergroup Sack Trick.
Rankin is currently working for Mercury Records in London promoting up and coming bands.
Mark Kerr is currently living and working in Paris. He has been collaborating with many acts including Sly Silver Sly, Regency Buck, Scanners, Jackos One, Mellow, Bob's Symphonic Orchestra, Cathy Burton and DJ Daniele Tignino. He has also played drums on occasion for Simple Minds and for Les Rita Mitsouko.
McNeil also writes, produces and plays drums for Glasgow pop act GoGoBot, a project he started in 2008.
Toby Jepson previously fronted Little Angels and had a brief spell fronting Fastway as well as releasing solo material and touring as a solo artist.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license