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Rock Sound Classic Features: Gallows

Tim Newbound
Tim Newbound 27 June 2011 at 13.57

A Rock Sound conversation with Gallows when they were just five scummy kids from Watford.

In April 2007 Rock Sound met Gallows in a stripclub to talk hate, more hate, and assess their unlikely ascent and astonishing hype. As the band start a UK tour tonight in Manchester, now seems like an appropriate time to remind ourselves of the opening chapters of this band's incredible story...

Before you read the below, buy Rock Sound Issue 150. Done that? Good, carry on as you were then!


Who says the days of rock ‘n’ roll decadence are gone, eh? While the embarrassing efforts of Avenged Sevenfold and Towers Of London may only go to prove the point, Gallows, five self-described “scummy kids” from Watford, are today the epitome of bygone lavish swagger. Er, kind of.

On their request, for Rock Sound’s photoshoot, the quintet have gathered in a stripclub attached to a grubby sports bar in the middle of a bleak west London industrial estate. So they can be pictured ignoring scantily clad ladies. Mötley Crüe should be shitting themselves.

“It’s a fuck-you to the Guns N’ Roses thing,” explains bassist Stu Gill-Ross, pre-shoot, about the concept, devised upon Gallows being asked what their dream photoshoot would involve. “At the end of the day there are going to be strippers there, we’re gonna be totally ignoring them and not playing it safe. Who cares?
“We’re not misogynists, if you talk to us we’re nice chaps. But whatever. It’s a laugh, innit?”

Watching the subsequent post-interview photoshoot is certainly funny – both ha ha and weird. Dressed in a smart uniform of leather jackets, shirts and ties, the band sit around on the red leather sofas of the club’s VIP room – largely looking fairly awkward – as a make-up artist deftly applies foundation to the, er, posterior cheeks of Kristina, one of today’s models, who then returns to her work, following the direction of Rock Sound’s snapper, urging her attentions towards singer Frank as he contently taps away at his GameBoy.
“I sing backing vocals if that helps,” interjects envious, onlooking guitarist Laurent.

While Stu’s rebuttal to allegations of misogyny ring true – not least because Gallows are gentleman throughout today’s shoot – the title track from debut album ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ could result in misperception, containing as it does intense lyrics detailing the sexual desires of a “woman-eater”, a “dude who turns into a wolf”.

“That song’s been greatly misinterpreted,” frontman and lyricist Frank Carter explains, his stare unflinching as ever. “It’s about having control. Everyone has this thing in them – like lust, desire. I don’t care who the fuck you are, everyone’s got it. It’s about having control of that and not allowing that to control you.”

Carter stresses that every word summoned from his lungs in Gallows is entirely real, true, and relevant to his life. It’s this realness the frontman feels is sadly lacking from modern music, and he pulls no punches when assessing the efforts of other bands currently doing the rounds.

“Take Bullet For My Valentine, for example,” he says, before broadening his vitriolic vision. “Nah nah nah, not so much that. In fact take any band at the minute, what are they singing about? All their songs are hidden metaphors about suicide or death, or girls, or alcoholism. It’s ALL RUBBISH… We’ve got songs on our record about partying, right next to songs about having your head kicked in, right next to going to the dentist, right next to having your merch stolen at a show.”

Gallows are the kind of band that, in the media, can attract a pantomime reputation: their willingness to openly express their views lapped up and printed with glee. But anyone who thinks their anger is outlandishly gimmicky is utterly mistaken – read the sleevenotes that come with ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ for proof.

“Nowadays anger has become a gimmick. There are a lot of bands that are using anger as a front. For us, our band is about music. It’s not about me, it’s not about anyone in particular, it’s not about what we do or how we portray ourselves,” Carter says. “It’s about our fucking music. Our music is pissed off. If you call it angry then fair enough but anger as a gimmick? (His voice quietly, but firmly sounding like he’s going to explode). Nah. Listen to the record, read the lyrics. It’s all there.”

Gallows aren’t unfamiliar with inciting the rage of others, either. Touring in support of the aforementioned Bullet For My Valentine in January offered up some interesting incidents, the band inundated with hatemail on their Myspace site and getting in no small amount of physical bother.

“It was just people saying they want to fight me and egg our bus,” says Frank. “And I was like, ‘Dude, you had your chance’…”

“…And been spat on…” interjects Stu.

“The thing is, he spat on me first! If you’re going to spit on someone you’re gonna get spat back.”

“And the thing about Bullet fans is,” adds Stu, “and you can quote me on this – they’re all duschbags.”

“Fuckin’ hell man, you know what I mean?” Frank concludes. “If you like that music then, Christ…”

You may have guessed that Gallows make enemies a lot easier than they make friends; and, while they describe the critical acclaim they’ve received as being “awesome”, it’s fair to say that, in a scene awash with haircut bands, their very much credible punk doesn’t sound like it should be popular.

“The fact of the matter is not that many people like us,” Frank says. “The numbers are very much dead against us still. We recently played to probably about 15,000 to 20,000 people, and out of that we made maybe 150 friends.”

“If we’re lucky,” adds quiet but dry-witted drummer Lee.

“Yeah, if we’re really lucky,” the frontman continues. “That’s fuck all, man. And even then the people who say, ‘Yeah, you were good’, they’ve always got a but, and the but is always about like…”

“…How we slagged off their town,” Lee laughs, referring to a particular gig in Newcastle, before going further: “What was it you said in Sheffield? ‘You’re the biggest bunch of pricks I’ve ever played to in my life!’”

“We’ve taken the time to check out a few of their (the internet hate crew) Myspaces, and you just need to take a look at their favourite bands list and you’re like, ‘I’m so glad you don’t like my band’,” says Laurent. “Fucking unbelievable. Like this one guy just kept sending us messages all the time, so I went and looked at what his favourite bands were, and it was like InMe and Mendeed and Trivium.”

“No offence to those bands,” Lee pipes up.

Frank is less diplomatic: “Loads of offence to those bands. Full offence. Full fucking offence.”

“I think my old band played with InMe, under a different name, and they were shit then. They haven’t changed,” Laurent chips in, with similar delicacy.

“There you go, that’s the headline, ‘InMe Are Fucking Shit’,” Frank suggests.

Regularly purporting that they started the band to “fuck people off”, while upsetting people was always on Gallows’ agenda, they have been more surprised by how it seems there are a number of music fans who actually emphasise with them. Given that the quintet only ever aspired to play mostly floor shows as support to the hardcore bands they respect, the disapproval of Bullet fans isn’t necessarily that much of a concern – especially with a strong management deal and a place on the US and Canadian Warped Tour now secured, and major high street shops seriously pushing their record. It’s above and beyond what one might reasonably expect from a band who tour in a clapped-out ex-Royal Mail van that constantly breaks down, a band without any major label backing.

“I think we’re the spokespeople for a generation,” says Carter. “It got to that point where everyone was coasting, the bands were coasting, like everyone was getting on and doing their thing and it was like, ‘This is shit, it doesn’t have to be this way, it can be better than this’. It can be fucking terrifying, it can be vicious.”

In the past year or so, November Coming Fire, The Ghost Of A Thousand, and Gallows have released three incredible albums that piss all over any number of the records imported from the US over which we so readily salivate. There are plenty more coming through the ranks. There is a real punk scene in this country, and if Gallows can spearhead that and put some vibrancy into what is ‘popular’ then they should be praised. It’s not a pantomime. It’s real.

This may sound like the typical, lavish, praise you’ve come to expect from journalists around this ever-so-hyped band. But it’s in no way unfounded. People talk about living the dream, but Gallows set out with an agenda that has escalated into something beyond their own belief.

They made a promise in album track ‘Kill The Rhythm’, and it seems they’re sticking to it: “Kill the rhythm / Smash the beat / We’re gonna party ‘til we’re dead on our feet / We don’t fuck about / Say what we think / Won’t stop ‘til everyone screams”.

Whether you’re screaming with them or against them, it’s impossible to ignore them. Not bad for a mob of “scummy kids” from Watford.

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