Gun’s singer Dante Gizzi is recalling his childhood experiences that inspired Boy Who Fooled The World, the ballad that closes Favourite Pleasures, the Glaswegian band’s third full-length album since they reunited nearly a decade ago. “Friday nights, I used to plan out this sort of ‘religious’ evening. Go for my bath, then wait up until my mum came home – she’d be at my aunt’s house having a few drinks, and be back late. It gave me the opportunity to sit up listening to the radio, with the headphones on. I’ve got my finger on the ‘Play’ and ‘Record’ buttons, and I’m listening out for songs to record. If I hear the first ten, fifteen seconds and it hooked me, then I’d record it. That’s how I got into music, because I had this fascination with songs.”
Favourite Pleasures is the sound of Gun playing songs – big, heartfelt, melodic rock songs, with the pop tinge and funk swagger that made the band a rare British hard rock success story in the late 80s.
“We wanted to take it right back and strip it back to the way Gun sounded in the late eighties,” Dante says of their new album, during a break from rehearsals. “Taking On The World [their 1989 debut album] is quite raw-sounding, and we wanted to strip it back to that.”
Dante, along with the rest of Gun, became a rock star by accident with Taking On The World, just as he became their singer by accident 20 years later, swapping from bass when the band’s stint with former Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson as their singer ended. Dante was 16 years old when Gun’s original bassist, Carni Morlotti, left, and guitarist Giuliano ‘Jools’ Gizzi decided to co-opt his kid brother to step in.
Not that Dante was desperate for the chance. He had a good job, working alongside his relatives in an Italian delicatessen, he had exams coming up, he’d never so much as picked up a bass guitar, and he was, he will admit, a bit terrified of playing live.
It didn’t take long for that to change, though. “After three songs of my first show – it was at the Bruce Hotel in East Kilbride – I just felt: ‘This is some buzz. This is incredible.’ People watching me, getting a reaction. Amazing. I never looked back.”
Still, his youth did create the odd problem, such as the time Gun were playing a showcase for record labels and the assorted bigwigs had to be kept waiting for Dante to get there from sitting some school exams.
Gun were an odd proposition when they first came along. At a time when hard rock was dominated by hair metal and thrash, they were neither. They didn’t even look like a hard rock band: short hair, no spandex, no leather.
“Our management team wanted a rock band, but it was first things first: ‘Get your hair cut, because that look isn’t going to last forever,’ Dante remembers. “We got it. We understood.”
That combination of looking non-tribal and making rock that had a pop sweet spot made Gun favourites of both Radio 1 and Top Of The Pops. The reality of the latter proved to be an eye‑opener for Dante when Gun made their TOTP debut performing Better Days, their first single, in the summer of ’89
“There’s a part of you that’s thinking you’ve played on the same stage as all the other artists you’ve watched on a Thursday night, and how incredible that is,” he says. “And then you get deflated by seeing how it’s actually run. It was like a cattle market. I remember thinking there’d be maybe a couple of thousand people there. You’d be lucky if there were two hundred, all getting carted around: ‘Let’s go to this stage.’ ‘Okay, everybody ready for applause!’ You almost wish you hadn’t seen that side of it.”
After charting with Taking On The World, two more, bigger hit albums followed – Gallus in ’92 and Swagger in ’94 – before everything went off the rails in 1997 after 0141 632 6326. The band’s management allied with singer Mark Rankin and producer Andrew Farris (formerly of INXS) to steer them in a poppier direction that disgusted the Gizzi brothers. “That was such a bad experience for us – Jools and I against the rest of the world, pretty much. We’d have these long discussions: ‘Do you really think this sounds like Gun? Cos it certainly doesn’t to me.’ And if you can’t convince yourself, how are you gonna convince anybody else? That was the catalyst for us to disband.”
In the years following Gun’s demise, Dante wrote for other artists, fronted his own glam-pop band El Presidente – one of the last decade’s more notable never-quite-made-it groups – before he and Jools came back together as Gun, motivated largely by not wanting 0141 to be their final statement.
After Jepson left, Jools turned to his brother to put down the bass and front the band. “Part of me thinks: ‘I don’t want to be constantly compared to Mark,’ Dante says. “I had no problem about singing all those songs, because I did sing half of it live from day one. I sung a lot on demos. In the end I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’ll do it.’ But I wanted to incorporate new music as well, because putting your own identity on things is important.”
Now he’s in his late 40s, Dante appreciates his good fortune rather more than he did first time around. “I wish I could go back in time to remember more of it,” he says. “I should have enjoyed it and not been so naive. But I was just a young kid. I never thought about the places we visited, the opportunities we had – like playing with the Stones [on their 1990 European tour]. I just got completely wrecked most of the time.”
He barely even recalls Gun receiving an MTV award in 1994 for their hit-single cover of Cameo’s Word Up. “I could hardly walk, I’d drunk so many spirits. We’d just got off the flight, and I hate flying, so I’d got really gassed on the plane.”
These days it’s all a bit more sensible, and Dante seems determined to savour every minute, as well as being more realistic about what they might deliver.
Favourite Pleasures is released on September 15 via Caroline Records